The Pursuit of God

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Understanding Spiritual Gifts: The Labels & the Lies

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What is a spiritual gift? There are two ways we can answer this question. When spiritual gifts are talked about in Church, people are usually referring to one item on a list of “gifts” which the apostle Paul jotted down in one of his New Testament epistles. We find various gifts listed in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, and Ephesians 4. These three letters were written by Paul. As is often the case in the Church, we are really recycling the theological beliefs of one dead apostle when we talk about spiritual gifts.

Now Paul’s list of gifts was far from comprehensive. This is hardly a surprise, for how can one man possibly list off every way that God might choose to work through someone? It’s important to note that Paul himself never tried to claim that the lists of gifts he mentions are complete. It was never Paul’s intention to try and tell us every possible gift that God might impart to someone. Yet many teachers in the Church act like this is exactly what he did. They will then go on to say that EVERY Christian MUST have one of the spiritual gifts mentioned by Paul. Of course this is utterly ridiculous, but this is what they say, and all kinds of guilt and trauma result as many Christians start trying to fake one or more of the gifts, or else they conclude that God has somehow overlooked them.

To get you straightened out on this spiritual gifts business, we need to broaden your definition of the concept. When you think “spiritual gift”, think “supernatural ability”. A spiritual gift is simply something that you can’t do without God’s help. Speaking in tongues, interpreting someone else speaking in tongues, prophesying the future, healing people—you can’t do any of these things on your own. When people do these things in our presence, we say that they have a “spiritual gift” of whatever that thing is.

But here’s where things get sticky. Peter walked on water. That was as humanly impossible as healing people, yet we don’t say that Peter had the gift of treading on liquids. Why not? Because he didn’t do it consistently. When something supernatural happens once or just a few times, we call it a miracle. If that same thing keeps happening through the same person, we start calling it a spiritual gift.

Here’s where things get even stickier. Because the term “spiritual gift” has been paired with an expectation of permanency, we have trouble staying fluid with God. Maybe He wants to use you to heal fifteen people. By the time He’s on guy #5, everyone’s saying you have the gift of healing. But after guy #15, God is over it and He’s moving on to something else. What happened to your giftedness? It’s suddenly gone.

Now in real life, things are even more confusing.  God prides Himself on being wild and unpredictable. He might be planning to heal fifteen people through you, but He doesn’t tell you this up front. You just keep having experiences where God tells you to lay your hands on someone and that person gets healed. When leaders in the Church declare that you have the gift of healing, you believe them. You now fall into the major trap of thinking that this pattern of God healing people through you is going to be a permanent thing. After you lay your hands on five people and they all get healed, when #6 comes along, you think you know what’s going to happen. Because you think you’ve got God’s pattern down, you stop seeking His guidance in each instance. You figure you know He’s going to keep doing what He’s done in the past: you lay on the hands, and zap! Instant healing. Well, on #6, you lay on the hands but there is no zap. God doesn’t do bumpkus for #6. He doesn’t do anything for #7, 8, or 9, either. Hm. That’s four customers in a row with no healing. But then #10 comes along and zap! That’s a relief—you were starting to get worried. In your mind, the healing of #10 proves that you still have your “gift”.  So how do you explain the four guys who didn’t receive healing through you?  Clearly they must have been spiritually flawed. Here’s where you turn into one of those jerks who goes around telling souls that it’s their own fault that God didn’t heal them because they had insufficient faith or unconfessed sins. Here God was planning to bless people through you, but instead you’ve become a source of condemnation and strife. You’re teaching souls that God is rejecting them when He really isn’t, and it’s all because you got carried away with the label of being “spiritually gifted.” Because YOU want this healing pattern to be a permanent thing, YOU have decided that anyone who doesn’t get healed through you must be flawed. But GOD never said any spiritual gift was permanent. Instead, God has always taught us that He is wild and unpredictable.

The reality is that the entire “spiritual gift” package has led us terribly astray and we would be much better off tossing the whole doctrine out the window. The simple truth is that God works through people whenever and however He wants to. As a general rule, He does not tell us the future of our own lives or anyone else’s, so we can’t possibly predict how long He’ll keep working through any one person in some particular way. We only start with the labeling games as a way of identifying certain patterns of how God has worked with someone in the past and as a means of trying to predict God’s next move. There are issues with both of these efforts.

Focusing on the Past

Understanding what God has done with someone in the past is of very limited value. Maybe God has spoken accurate prophecies through the same woman for two years, so we call her a prophet. But this label does not guarantee that God will continue to prophesy through this woman in the future, nor does it mean her next prophecy will be trustworthy. Prophets go bad all the time. They fall into the same trap as healers: they start faking their “gift” in order to keep their fan club intact.

People congregate wherever supernatural power is on display. Publicize the fact that God has healed people through you and you’ll have an instant following. But if you don’t keep healing people, that following will soon dissipate, because most of them are only there for the show. It’s the same with prophesying. You have to keep coming up with juicy tidbits about the future or people will stop listening. This is where the temptation to fake things overwhelms many souls and we see good prophets turning into irreverent, ego-stroking windbags who go around declaring “the Lord has spoken” when He hasn’t spoken at all. When we put too much import on what God has done through someone in the past, we set ourselves up to be led astray in the future.

Trying to Predict the Future

Trying to predict the future is another area that’s fraught with problems. Once we call someone a “healer”, we decide for God when He’s going to heal through that person. This is when we start booking hotel rooms and sending our healers on tours around the globe. We pre-plan seminars for the Holy Spirit to show up at so He can do His thing. Then we hire shills that we can keep on standby in case the Holy Spirit tries to embarrass us by not performing on cue. Trying to predict God always ends up in a mess.

The Loss of Fluidity

God wants submission from us. He wants us to be flexible and fluid. When He suddenly changes course, He wants us to be right there with Him, staying in step with all of His crazy moves. Staying fluid with God is very hard on the human ego. Just when you’re getting all emotionally attached to your ministry, He takes it away from you. Just when you’re building your whole identity on being “Pastor So-and-So”, God tells you to step down. The problem with focusing on spiritual gifts and labeling things as “gifts” is that we stop being flexible and fluid. We start setting expectations that God never authorized us to set. We think having a particular gift gives us the right to start bossing the Holy Spirit around. The prophet attends a prayer conference and decides that now would be a good time for the Holy Spirit to come up with some amazing gem of foreknowledge that will wow the large audience. The famous healer finds himself in the presence of some ailing person and demands that God produce a miracle to keep up his reputation. Look around at the Church and you’ll see all kinds of egotistical label flashing. Surf through Christian forums online and notice how many souls are using handles like Prophetess, Anointed Healer, Evangelist, and Pastor. We’re so busy trying to leverage the power of labels that we’re no longer listening to God. How do you know when your label has become an ego trip? When it bugs you that no one’s using it. But by the time that you get to this point, you’re probably not going to do anything about it. Instead of repenting of your arrogance and asking God to reeducate you on the concept of godly humility, you’re going to correct those who are failing to give you proper reverence and post another airbrushed photo of your smiling face for everyone to admire. This is where we end up when we get off on labels: we turn into bloated, boasting egos and it’s a very ugly sight.

So how do you avoid sinking down into the cesspool of gifted fatheads? You start by keeping a grip on a few basic truths. God is good. People are depraved. God is powerful. People are impotent. Anything that inspires or uplifts your soul came from God. God is the ONLY ONE who is EVER deserving of glory. Keep these simple truths in front of you and you’ll be just fine.

So now that we’ve learned about the spiritual gifts label, let’s take a quick run through those gifts you always hear about in church—the gifts that Paul mentions in his letters. Having a basic understanding of how God views these things will help you identify when some arrogant human is trying to exaggerate his own abilities.

SPEAKING IN TONGUES

Of all the gifts, this one is the easiest to fake. Any fool can get up and mumble a bunch of unintelligible baloney and then claim it was God. To learn about the mechanics of tongues and why you don’t need to stress if you never experience them, see Speaking in Tongues.

From God’s perspective, speaking in tongues isn’t a voluntary thing, it’s something He forces on you. You don’t understand what you’re saying, so it’s not like you can plan sentences. A bunch of garble just comes out your mouth, as if the Holy Spirit has taken control of your vocal cords. While many people like to imagine they are speaking “the language of angels”, often what sounds like tongues to you, is just another human language that you’ve never been exposed to. If you only speak English and God forces you to say something in Swahili, as far as you’re concerned, you just spoke in tongues. But to the fellow sitting next to you who speaks Swahili, you just said something intelligible in his native tongue.

INTERPRETING TONGUES

So let’s talk about that fellow who sits next to you and hears you speaking Swahili. When you speak in tongues, he understands you even though you don’t understand yourself. If he gets up and interprets your message, then to you, it’s like he interpreted your tongues. This is one way that it works.

Another way that it works is the fellow sitting next to you doesn’t understand a word you just said, yet God strongly impresses on him a particular message. He feels compelled to get up and share that message, believing it to be a Divine interpretation of what you just said. How can anyone tell if the interpretation is correct if no one understands the original language? They can’t. This is why the interpretation of tongues is another easy one to fake.

The Church today is loaded with fake tongue speakers and fake interpreters. You get up and say a bunch of baloney, then I get up and tell the congregation some message from God that they all want to hear. You get glory for speaking some Divine language, and I get glory for prophetically interpreting it. Because no one’s checking with God for confirmation, the whole congregation gets led astray. Hooray for tongues.

If tongues are such a problem, why does God bother with them? Well, now and then He actually uses them to glorify Himself. Here’s another key principle to keep in mind: God always glorifies HIMSELF. He doesn’t glorify mere human channels. So pay attention to where the glory is going. If everyone’s oozing over the human channel and the channel is basking in the attention, it’s a good bet that whatever happened was a bunch of staged hooey.

EVANGELISTS, APOSTLES & MISSIONARIES
Focus: Expanding the kingdom, getting new converts & spreading the Gospel.

The gift of evangelism has become associated with major guilt in the Church because so many teachers and leaders try to turn this into a universal gift that everyone is supposed to have a piece of. Well, no, it’s not.

From God’s perspective, the gift of evangelism comes down to Him putting a major fire in someone’s pants to get out and share the Gospel message with others. True evangelists feel so compelled to share that they can’t not share. They tend to be extroverted personalities—people who already find it fun and easy to strike up conversations with absolute strangers. They LOVE telling people about Jesus. They MUST tell people about Jesus. Trying to get an evangelist to not tell people about Jesus is like trying to cork a volcano: it’s a futile effort.

True evangelists are a pain to hang out with because everywhere you go, they’re sharing Jesus with someone. These people are DRIVEN to share. They are usually very aware that it is God who is compelling them to share, but they tend to be very dense about the fact that God doesn’t work the same way with everyone. Evangelists are famous for trying to say everyone should be like them. They feel so righteous in their calling, that they will say you’re flawed if you don’t share their fire. Well, no, you’re not flawed, and the fact that you HATE sharing the Gospel doesn’t mean you love Jesus less than the evangelists do. These people are being supernaturally propelled down the witnessing road. They can’t take credit for their zeal (although they do), and they can’t fault you for the fact that God hasn’t zapped you the way He’s zapped them.

For those of you who recoil at the thought of witnessing to others, congratulations: you’re not an evangelist. Remember these days so that if God ever turns you into an evangelist, you won’t start trying to say that everyone who doesn’t share your fire is spiritually flawed. Because there is so much guilt regarding evangelism, we have written many articles to help you understand why you’re not a bad Christian if you hate witnessing to others.

Evangelists, apostles and missionaries are all folks who feel a strong desire to get out there and spread the Gospel to new places and new faces. They may travel far and wide, or they may stay within their local communities. But they are always looking for new faces. Their goal is to keep extending the realm in which the Good News has been preached. When someone feels strongly called by God to teach about Him in another country, we call them missionaries. But missionaries don’t always move far away. Sometimes they stay at home and target a local subculture within their own neighborhood, such as homeless folks, or unwed mothers, or a particular ethnic group.

While apostles today want to think they are big stuff, in reality they are no different than evangelists and missionaries. Today the apostle title has become a major ego trip. When people read the New Testament and see Paul claiming authority over churches that are located a long way away from him, they think, “Hey, I want some of that action. How can I become the regional king who all the local churches bow down to?” Out comes the title of apostle. Apostles want to operate like evangelists while still maintaining major spiritual clout in the eyes of other Christians.

Now helping someone get saved is all fine and well, but salvation is just the beginning. Who is going to guide souls in the lifelong process of spiritual maturity? This is where we need teachers who stick around—folks that aren’t always on the move and who aren’t just focused on going over spiritual basics.

PROPHETS & PREACHERS
Focus: Nurturing & guiding the flock through the stages of maturity; educating souls about who God is and what He wants.

When we talk about a prophet, we mean someone who knows things that only God could have told them. Their spiritual insights could be about the Bible, they could be about your personal life, or they could be about the future. Not every prophet receives revelations about the future from God. The gift has become strongly associated with this, but really it has a much broader scope.

When we talk about preachers, we are also talking about someone who God shares a lot of Divine insight with. But preachers (or shepherds) tend to have a very strong caretaking drive whereas prophets tend to be loners.

Preachers tend to be assigned a specific flock by God. Their focus is supposed to be on instructing, counseling, and guiding the souls in their flock towards God. Preachers have a “shepherd’s heart”—meaning that they enjoy helping the weak and hurting, and they are good at baby stepping souls along.

False preachers only care about numbers and glory. These guys don’t have the chops to make it as actors in Hollywood, but they have enough stage talent to entertain their audiences and keep the folks coming back every week to hear more ego pleasing milksop. Most churches today shop for false preachers when it’s time to re-staff the pulpit. They don’t want the real guys, because the real guys don’t always come in pretty packages, nor do they always say what the people want to hear.

God can prophesy through anyone anytime He wants to. But when He calls someone to be a fulltime prophet—as He did with Isaiah, Jeremiah, & Ezekiel—we start to notice certain patterns. While prophets share God’s love for the flock, dedicated prophets are far more focused on God being glorified. Prophets are so focused on God’s exaltation, that they can come across as very rude, hostile, and indifferent. While you can expect a variety of messages from preachers, prophets tend to focus on what is wrong. They are often used by God to be His Voice of conviction, which makes them very unpopular. They also tend to have a more global or national focus. They are looking at the big picture instead of just focusing on nurturing one particular flock.

Dedicated prophets are notorious for being outspoken, passionate, alpha types who are very extreme in their theological views. To them it’s “turn or burn.” If you aren’t going to honor God, then may the lightning strike. While the nurturing nature of preachers makes it very agonizing for them to think of souls ending up in Hell, zealous prophets can get high off of the idea of God’s enemies roasting forevermore because they want to see God’s wrath satisfied. Prophets are extremely narrow-minded on many topics. They identify most with God’s jealousy, wrath, and obsession with glorifying Himself. If you want gentle counseling, you want to talk to a shepherd. If you want to know what God really thinks about the Church’s carnal shenanigans, you want to talk to a prophet.

True shepherds and prophets must be getting their insights from God—there is no other Source of truth. Shepherds tend to prefer using written Scripture as a teaching tool, while prophets are more freelance. God often uses visions to speak to prophets—showing them images instead of just using verbal descriptions. It’s rare for prophetic visions to be truly literal—often they are filled with metaphorical imagery which takes maturity and discernment for a prophet to correctly interpret. You should be very suspicious of a prophet who is constantly seeing only future visions. God is not in a habit of telling us the future, nor does He want us wasting our time trying to anticipate His next move. But future prophecies draw the big crowds, which is why the fakers love to talk incessantly about the future. Just as those who fake tongues tell themselves they are experiencing the real deal, many prophets have deluded themselves into thinking their own self-invented fantasies are messages from God.

Real prophets always exalt God, and their style is often far from diplomatic. They tend to use harsh language and coarse words. They tend to be volatile personalities. When God is angry, He doesn’t bother with delicate wording, and real prophets reflect this as they communicate God’s anger in its raw, ego-knifing form. While pastors will guide you back onto the right path with a helping hand, prophets are more likely to give you a swift kick in the behind. Both groups sincerely care about the state of your soul, they just express their love for you in different ways.

Prophets and preachers get a lot of attention in the Church today. These are two titles that are widely abused and misused. To learn more about prophets and preachers, see the following:

Can Christian leaders claim special protection from God?
Can a prophet of God read your mind?
Anointed: What it Does & Doesn’t Mean
Identifying False Prophecy About the End Times

You never have to wonder “Does God want me to preach or prophesy?” When God is calling you into one of these roles, you will know it. For centuries the Church has attempted to train people on how to preach. This is utterly ludicrous, for if such training is going to be useful, it must come from God Himself. Humans cannot authorize other humans to speak on God’s behalf, and since this is what prophets and preachers do, you don’t want to go within a hundred miles of either of these roles until God Himself gives you a direct charge.

Real prophets and preachers are chosen by God, not people. Being gifted at speaking and memorizing Scripture has nothing to do with being called to preach. Those who represent God to the flock will be held accountable for how they used their enormous influence. Speaking for God is not a game. Many today have turned it into one, and when they reach eternity, they will discover how God feels about them trying to use His Name and Authority to make a name for themselves on earth. Don’t mess with God’s flock, His Name, or His Authority. If you treat these things like dispensable toys, you will pay some unpleasant consequences later on. You don’t want anything to do with leaders who have no fear of misrepresenting God to the flock by attaching His Name to their own words.

Today the Church employs many screening devices to keep real prophets and preachers out of her midst. This is because she doesn’t want to be confronted with truth or hear God’s convictions. God’s chosen people have a long history of intentionally shunning Him. Make sure that you are not found among those who applaud false shepherds and false prophets.

HEALERS & MIRACLE WORKERS

Humans have NO supernatural power. Humans are INCAPABLE of performing miracles. You need to have a very firm grip on this. GOD does miracles, and when He does them through people, those people are merely His instruments.

Now many healers in the Church today want you to think that THEY control when God will do a miracle through them. They treat His power like a predictable thing which they have special access to. But no, this isn’t how it works with God.

Suppose you got in your car one day only to discover that it had a mind of its own. When you press on the brakes, the car doesn’t slow down because the car doesn’t want to. When you press on the gas, the car refuses to speed up. When you try to open the door and get out, the car keeps you locked inside. This is how it works with God: we don’t tell Him what to do. We can nag and plead and pepper Him with Bible verses all day, but He won’t do anything until He wants to. We can lay our hands on people, break out the holy oil, and declare all kinds of things in Jesus’ Name, but God will not take orders from us. God does what God wants to do only when God is in the mood to do it. So whenever you see a human being trying to take glory for miracles that God performed through him, you know you’re dealing with an ego that is out of control. You don’t want anything to do with healers and miracle workers who are dishonoring God.

Now at the start of this lesson, we talked about how the spiritual gift label gets us in all kinds of trouble because we start expecting God to stick to certain patterns. When God performs several miracles through someone, it naturally draws our attention, and we label that person as “gifted”. But does this really make sense? Human beings have NO POWER. So if God heals someone through you, you had nothing to do with it. You just stood there. Moses didn’t make the waters of the Red Sea part by holding his staff in the air. GOD parted the waters—the elevation of a man’s walking stick had nothing to do with it. GOD does miracles. Humans just stand there. Humans do not control the flow of God’s power in any way, shape, or form. If God wants to do a miracle through you, you’re not going to be able stop Him. If He doesn’t want to do a miracle through you, there’s no way you can make Him. When we really think about the concept of Divine power, we realize it’s really stupid to call this a “spiritual gift.”

To say someone has a “gift” implies that God has given them something. God certainly gives people kernels of wisdom and insight which He then lets them choose how they will use. Prophets and preachers receive “gifts” of insight from God which they either cherish or misuse. God is giving YOU gifts of insight as well. If we misuse the gifts God gives us, He takes them back again. But God never gives mere mortals His power, so we are really deluding ourselves when we call healing and miracle working “spiritual gifts.” These things aren’t gifts at all, they are actions that God chooses to do. There’s no such thing as having a career as a healer. Human beings don’t assist God in healing people. Human beings don’t “work” miracles. But humans are very good at faking miracles, and this happens ALL THE TIME in the Church. The shocking truth is that the vast majority of healers and exorcists you see videotaping themselves online and hosting regular seminars are FAKING IT. Remember that humans have NO POWER. Only God has power, and God won’t be scheduled by us. So whenever you see someone telling you months in advance when God will be performing His next batch of miracles, you know there are problems. Who is getting the glory when these healers stand on a brightly lit stage calling up random people from the audience to be cured? It certainly isn’t God who is being exalted during these flesh fests. Today in the Church, men and women are treating God’s Divine power like some artistic talent which they have personally cultivated. Just as the professional pianist shows off his skills to a paying audience, healers flaunt their miracle working moves in front of huge stadiums full of wide-eyed people. It is a revolting display of self-exaltation, and yet these people have the gall to shout out “To God be the glory!” while they stand there basking in the applause for all to see. You don’t want anything to do with these people. They disgust God and they are building up His wrath against themselves. Anyone who makes a mockery out of God’s Name, Authority, power, and glory is demonstrating their complete lack of reverence. If any of these people are even saved—which is doubtful—they are certainly not going to be receiving any commendations from God in eternity. To learn more about how miracle workers try to work you over, see:

Trained Shills & Blind Trust: A Winning Combination for False Shepherds
Deliverance Ministries: Scamming You in the Name of Jesus

OTHER GIFTS

Every Christian matures at a different pace and in a different order. This is the way God wants it. We were all designed for different eternal purposes, and we are not supposed to be clones of each other. But as we go along in life, we will notice certain patterns. The closer we get to God, the more He will teach us to see people through His gracious eyes. God is extremely compassionate, merciful, patient, kind, generous, and loving. He’s also jealous, possessive, wrathful, and vengeful. God has many fascinating qualities, and in the Church we work hard to ignore the characteristics of God that make us uncomfortable. When a prophet comes along personifying God’s jealousy and wrath, we want that person to get away from us. But when someone comes along exuding mercy, we like being around them. We then say that they have the “spiritual gift of mercy.” Rubbish. Mercy is not a gift, it is a mindset that God develops within us. Yet because He teaches us all in a different order, some of us get mercy training earlier on than others. It’s only because the human ego likes being around mercy, compassion, hospitality, and generosity that we call these things “gifts”. God’s fury, jealousy, and zeal for glory are just as real, but we don’t say someone has “the gift of wrath.” Why not? Who are we to exalt one characteristic of God as better than another? Everything about God is utterly fascinating. We should be celebrating all of His characteristics and wanting to know as much as we can about each one of them. But this isn’t what we do. We pick and choose what attitudes we want to be around, and we label those things as “spiritual gifts”. Then we stroke the ego of anyone who seems to exhibit those attitudes and guilt them into serving in our church community. It’s an ugly system, and one which is guaranteed to drag souls down into arrogance.

The Church today is run like a corporate business with a high turnover problem. There is a constant search for more warm bodies to keep propping up our carnal ministry efforts. There is no sincere effort to submit to the leading of the Holy Spirit—we just pretend that’s what we’re doing as we sit around asking God to bless the ministries that we started without Him. When you start attending a new church, the first few weeks are free. You’re a new body, so they want to coddle you. But once you’ve been warming the pews for a while, then they’ll start pressuring you to start contributing to the community. This is when they will teach you that “serving God” means kowtowing to human leaders and doing whatever those leaders want you to do. Out comes the spiritual gifts survey, which has been expanded with so much guff that you’re sure to rate high in some area. Once you get stamped with a label, your ego starts feeling pretty good. Next they pack you off to whatever ministry area that they’ve decided you are best “gifted” to help in. Once you get on that treadmill, you’re not going to be able to get off without a whole lot of guilt and flack. This is how it works in most churches today because most churches are not listening to God. There are still a few good ones trying to hold the line, but it’s very difficult when we are constantly putting spiritual rebels in positions of leadership over the flock and handing them authority that they are all too eager to abuse. Power corrupts people, and most egos can’t handle labels like pastor, prophet, or anointed without getting massively inflated.

PERSONAL APPLICATION

So what does all of this mean for you? Is it important that you figure out what your spiritual gifts are? No. It’s important that you realize what a load of hooey this whole spiritual gift package has become. Is God going to work through you in life to draw others closer to Him? Absolutely. But He’s not going to tell you about most of the things He does through you. If He does call you to serve Him in some particular way, He’s not going to want you to start title flashing and carrying on about how anointed you are. Serving God is about pleasing our Creator, not about promoting ourselves. We are supposed to want to serve as a means of expressing our love for God, not because we’re afraid of Him punishing us or because we’re trying to guilt Him into blessing us. God doesn’t need our help to accomplish His work down here. He doesn’t need us at all for anything. When we serve God to help Him, we go astray. Serving God is just another means of communing with Him. It is through serving that God teaches us more about who He is and what He wants from us (see Understanding Why God Calls Us to Serve Him).

Today, Christians are taught to feel bad, inferior, or flawed if they don’t know what their “spiritual gifts” are. But if you have managed to escape the labeling machinery for this long, you’re actually in a fabulous place. About 2,000 years ago, the apostle Paul wrote some letters to a few churches who were having various problems with carnality. In the midst of trying to get those churches back on the right track, Paul mentioned spiritual gifts. Later on, foolish Christians leapt upon those few comments and built a whole doctrine off of them. Whenever you come across a teaching that encourages Christians to get all puffed up with pride or all beat down with guilt, alarms should start sounding in your mind. When God teaches us, He ENCOURAGES us in our relationships with Him, He exalts HIMSELF, and He promotes the four essential soul attitudes of reverence, submission, dependency and trust. When we get into the spiritual gifts hoopla, we find HUMANS being exalted, we find the un-gifted feeling discouraged and we find the gifted feeling burdened with guilt. We find people disrespecting God, we find arrogance running amuck, we find the gifted refusing to submit to God’s Authority, and we find people being encouraged to depend on their own abilities and gut instincts instead of depending on God. While it’s good to acknowledge that God is performing miracles in our midst and calling certain individuals to serve Him in certain ways, nothing good comes out of obsessing over labels. We can’t predict God. We can’t decide for Him how He might choose to work through some individual. So don’t get caught up in the label lust. Keep your mind wide open on the subject of God working through you in life and be content to follow the Holy Spirit’s leading one day at a time. The gifts by themselves are utterly worthless. It is pleasing God that matters in life, and we do that by asking Him to make us all that HE wants us to be.

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