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What are Spiritual Gifts?

“Do you use all of your phone?”  This is a modern question.

Modern phones are mini-computers, cameras, and communication/presentation devices. They are stunning in their complexity and potential. Most people know they could do much more with their phone and live (not a little) intimidated by the device in their hands. This happens when they see others use their phones to (seemingly) master the universe. “Is there some mystery for productivity I need to master? Some setting I need to find? If I just mastered that … life would be better!”

I wonder: How many Christians are intimidated by the Holy Spirit in the lives of others? Perhaps they look at others who live with perpetual joy and ask, “Am I supposed to live that way?” Or perhaps they compare themselves to those who live with calm spiritual confidence, unflappable and steadfast. And they are genuine! They would be easier to dismiss if they weren’t authentic.  But they are. Somehow they seem to walk side-by-side with the Holy Spirit. “What do they know of the Holy Spirit that I don’t? How are they accessing the Holy Spirit in ways that I can’t?”

I have good news. The Holy Spirit is not a smart phone with hidden features in the settings, just waiting to be discovered and fully utilized. The Holy Spirit is not a utility or some kind of additional feature for my Christian life.

He is, as the song says, “God in three Persons, blessed trinity.” The Holy Spirit is God-the Spirit. He indwells me as a person saved by the blood of Jesus and now living towards God. He indwells the local church, empowering us with gifts so that we may exalt Jesus in the world. Both as a church and as individuals, the Holy Spirit causes us to be changed into the likeness of Jesus.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does: He changes us to be like Jesus.

I don’t figure out how to “use all” of the Holy Spirit. It’s kind’a the other way around. Over a lifetime, the Holy Spirit indwells me so thoroughly … He uses all of me.

There are texts in the New Testament which comment on "spiritual gifts." (Rm. 12; 1 Co. 12; Ep. 4; 1 Pt. 4) You follow a path to confusion by chasing after particular "gifts" yet ignoring both the Giver and the Giver's purpose.

All spiritual gifts are given to glorify Jesus in some way, either directly or indirectly. Gifts of proclamation, teaching, communication and worship focus directly upon Jesus, exalting Him before the watching world. Gifts of endurance, perseverance, faithfulness, service and leadership transform lives into the image of Jesus and thus glorify Jesus indirectly: Jesus gains glory through changed lives. Either way, directly or indirectly, the Holy Spirit reveals and glorifies Jesus in the world: "He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16.14)

Do not be troubled because ... supposedly ... you have yet to fully experience the Holy Spirit in your life. The Holy Spirit is not at your beck and call. His presence in your life is not some kind of subscription plan. You need not worry about investing more  enthusiasm in order to gain greater access to 'higher levels' of His indwelling. 

It's not how much you get out of the Holy Spirit. Over your lifetime, beginning every morning, how much of your life does the Holy Spirit get from you? 


Posted by Tim Alexander with