So this is it, part three on the series of the Holy Spirit, and regrettably the last post until July. But it is actually really great, I will be working at Camp Ozark in Arkansas, throwing kids out of trees, blobbing kids into the lake, acting absolutely ridiculous, but best of all sharing the love and power of Jesus with kids who may not know Him! I will be away for 6 weeks (plus a week of hiking Big Bend before Ozark), having my endurance tested, leaning only on God for strength, and in the end I will have changed lives, both those of the kids and my own. So yea, I'm kinda super excited for this!
Anyway, this post is one that I have been wanting to do for quite a while, because it is something that I am very passionate about and that I want everyone to know about. I'm talking about how we know we have the Holy Spirit in is, specifically as evidenced by spiritual gifts. This is seriously so awesome, that we are not only given salvation when we follow Christ, but we have proof that we are saved because we have the Holy Spirit in us, and we have proof that we have the Spirit in us by fruits of the Spirit and spiritual gifts.
First, lets talk about the fruits of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." The first things that come to us when we are baptized with the Holy Spirit, is that we are reborn into a new body, into an entirely new person formed in the image of Jesus. And when we are reborn, we exhibit new characteristics, having replaced the sinful parts of us with parts that reflect that love of Jesus. We have been made completely new, and others definitely take notice when you decide to live like Jesus. God's ways are not our ways, and the way we live is not the way that those who live in the world, in the flesh, live. Those who follow Christ completely simply live differently.
Now about Spiritual gifts, what exactly are they? Well they are exactly what they sound like, they are special little gifts that God has given us. These gifts are given to us as tools to help bring the kingdom of Heaven down to earth, to glorify God, and to share the love of God with others and help them to know and want Jesus in their lives. These gifts are freely given, and with them we are expected to freely give(Matthew 10:8), and everyone has been given spiritual gifts if in fact we truly have the Holy Spirit in us. 1 Corinthians 1:7, pretty much my life verse, "Therefore, you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed." None of us has been left without a spiritual gift; God has given us each a unique spirit and unique talents, and he would not expect us to take on this world, so full of sin and Satan, alone. He has given us each the tools we need to bring light to this earth.
So what kinds of Spiritual gifts are there? For starters 1 Corinthians 12 gives a brief description of some gifts. One such example is speaking in other languages or tongues (could be to bridge a language barrier such as in Acts 2, or to deliver a message, or just as an intimate "prayer language" to be heard by God alone); if one has been given a message in tongues, another would have been gifted with interpretation to understand the message and present it to the church congregation. However, Paul addresses the fact that speaking in tongues is one of the less-important gifts, because it is not something that will often raise up the church and grow it. Nevertheless, tongues still exists today, and I have met several people who will occasionally speak in tongues. Another gift would be healing, as the Apostles had and as my lifegroup leader has. Healing can be minor, like removing pain, or it can be huge, like restoring senses, motor ability, or even life. There is the gift of wisdom, which I personally felt I have been given; wisdom is not just knowledge, it is the ability to use the knowledge that we have been given, whatever it is. It could be a deeper understanding of the Bible with the purpose to preach, or it could be wisdom of people and knowing exactly what to say with someone who is searching for God and wants to know more. Another gift is prophecy, of being given a message from God to be delivered to another. This could be a vision of the future, with the intent to help people prepare themselves spiritually for what may come, or it may be a vision intended for encouragement of an individual or group. this is another gift I believe to have been given, as well as many others in my lifegroup, and many of the messages mean very little to the prophet, but when told to the recipient mean the world and just reveal so much to them, help them with a struggle they have been dealing with. There is the gift of teaching, of presenting information in a way that makes it easy for others to understand (another I believe to have). There is encouragement, discernment, financial giving, mercy, service, evangelism, leadership, apostleship, and many others. If i could, I would describe all that I am aware of, but there is simply an inexhaustible list of possible spiritual gifts.
But regardless of which gifts you have been given, the purpose of them is the same; that they are used to build up the Church, the body of Christ. And yet, we are not given EVERY gift, but rather just a few, but it takes them all to have a functioning body. In 1 Corinthians 12:28, Paul does say that apostleship(mass planting of churches across the world), prophecy, and leadership(being a pastor, or discipline a small group) are the greater gifts, in that order, and the others gifts are lesser. But earlier in chapter 12 he says that the parts of the body that seem the least desirable are often regarded with the highest praise (think of feet, pretty nasty but vital to movement). However, as Christians we should always be desiring to do more for God, and this means using our gifts for more and having more gifts. This is not bad, and in fact is encouraged by Paul, but the gifts we should desire to have should be the "greater gifts," apostleship, prophecy, leadership. It is not bad to desire other gifts, but the important thing is that you desire gifts with the correct heart and with the right intent: to glorify God and grow his Church, not to impress others because of what you can do.
But anyway, this was just my little rant on how we know we have the Holy Spirit in us: if we truly have the Spirit in us, then these fruits and these gifts WILL shine forth from us, and that is our proof of salvation. These gifts are to be used to show the world that we are different, that we have the love of God in us, and to help show others the incredible power and presence that God has in this world. We are to use these gifts to glorify God, not ourselves. Now this is my commission to you readers, during my hiatus at camp: find your spiritual gifts. Take time to search yourself, figure out what you are good at and how God has given you special talents with that, talents that can be used to share Jesus with those who do not know Him or to strengthen and encourage those that do. Take a spiritual gifting test, such as this one from Antioch Community Church: http://www.antiochtempe.org/mediafiles/spiritual-gift-assessment.pdf . Above all, pray about it, so that you can hear God's voice telling you which gifts you have and how to use them. And then, once you have found your gifts, use them! Share Jesus with others, help them find their gifts, help them find a relationship with Jesus! Don't let this summer be a time of spiritual stagnation, let it be a time of intense growth, a time where you get to have a deeper, more intimate relationship with Jesus. Let God's light shine through you this summer.