The fourth session of the WorshipGod06 Conference will be led by Bob Kauflin who was first honored by Mark Altrogge and others for his years of outstanding service to the Lord through ministry. Bob will be speaking from 1 Corinthians 12.
Too often we approach God like the subject of a biography. We read about him, but do not expect to actually encounter Him. We pray but don’t think He’ll talk back. We read His word but see it as lifeless facts and information, not a living word. But the Bible is not the biography of a dead God! Jesus Christ is alive! God’s presence and power is not only in Scripture for He can be personally encountered. Our worship is not only to or for God, but is where we encounter and experience God. The One who allows us to encounter God is God Himself in the Holy Spirit. As we have learned in the previous three sessions, the Holy Spirit is actively present when we gather together as the body of Christ.
There is a great deal of confusion about God’s active presence, and all of this confusion existed in the Corinthian church. Much like many Christians today, these people were confused about the spiritual gifts and used them in wrong ways. Paul wrote them to guard them against errors and that will be Bob’s purpose as well. Paul proves that spirituality has to do with our understanding of and relationship to Christ, not a manifestation of the gifts. The main work of the Spirit we want to celebrate is the miracle of regeneration where the Spirit causes dead souls to live. Paul also makes it clear that, more important than using the gifts, is the reason we use them: motivated by love and to build others up. Paul seeks to protect these people from error and fanaticism. He does not tell them to stop seeking God’s presence but encourages them to seek evidences of the Spirit’s active presence. Nowhere does Paul tell them to stop seeking this gift and nowhere does he forbid evidences such as tongues. He quoted D.A. Carson who says, “We must desire to know more of Godâ€™s presence in our lives, and pray for a display of unleashed, reforming revivifying power among us, dreading all steps that aim to domesticate God. But such prayer and hunger must always be tempered with joyful submission to the constraints of biblical discipline.”
This morning Bob wants to focus on the experiential aspect of God’s presence. He asks, what kind of heart does God want us to cultivate so we can be aware of and respond to what He is doing? There are three things:
A Desperate Dependence - Paul speaks of the gift of grace, which speaks of the source, for it is both a gift and is of grace. It is difficult to acknowledge our desperate dependence for we like to have everything under control, just the way we are familiar with. We don’t like to think that we need God’s Spirit. It is easier to rely on knowledge, resources and experience. Yet we should not pit these against the Spirit, but celebrate them both. We need to have an awareness of the opposition to us which seeks to draw us into the world and into the flesh. The devil seeks to condemn and to deceive and we are susceptible to his schemes. When we realize how these forces oppose us, it helps us to recognize our desperate dependence. We can acknowledge our dependence by asking God for help. We are commanded to pray in, by and to the Spirit because of our need for Him. He stirs us up to pray and allows us to cry out to God. He helps us in our weakness as we pray. Do we pray before we meet with God’s people? Do we pray before we meet with our small groups? Do we feel our dependence upon His Spirit. Do we pray for our hearts and wills to be opened and receptive? His strength is perfected in our weakness, but how can we know we are weak if we are never aware that we are desperately dependent?
Eager Expectation - The same Spirit empowers all of the gifts in everyone. A manifestation is something we can see - a person who says he is happy while scowling is not manifesting joy. Paul tells us that the Spirit gives not only a gift but a manifestation of that gift. Christians are supposed to demonstrate that they have a particular gift. Trusting in God’s sovereignty is no reason to think that He will not move in miraculous ways. The early church trusted in His sovereignty but still expected that He would do great things through them. God’s sovereignty is the foundation for expecting his active presence. What does eager expectation look like? It means listening and watching for the Spirit’s activities, leadings and promptings. Some Christians listen but without really expecting the Spirit to speak.
Humble Responsiveness - One of the reasons that the charismatic/cessationist debate has been volatile and hurtful has been that people respond to genuine works of the Spirit in a proud way. Certain groups view their gifts as the best, are offended when their gift is not received as authentic, or are too timid to actually share their gifts. The point of what Paul says to the Corinthians is that there is a variety of gifts and none is better than the other. For example, there are miracles and there is showing mercy, and both are works of the Spirit and manifestation of His active presence. Prophecies have to be tested because people don’t always get them right. Christians have no right to say “thus said the Lord” about anything other than Scripture. There needs to be humility in sharing prophecy. Bob shared about how he often “receives” songs spontaneously. He does not regard these as infallible words or are heavenly melodies. He wants to be faithful in using this gift and delivering these songs. These do not replace God’s word, but are simply confirmation of God’s active presence among His people. Scripture is the primary and infallible way that God speaks to us. No experience of God’s Spirit today will ever be canonical or will give us new doctrine. And yet God’s word says that the Spirit gives varieties of gifts and service and activities. “I have a hard time believing that the only church were the only ones who were supposed to get these things.”
So how do we humbly respond? Not everyone should start singing spontaneous songs! Each should use the gifts God has given. Here are a few ways we can use the gifts: In larger meetings there can be serving, exhorting, leading and so on. But Paul’s focus in 1 Corinthians 12 is more on the spontaneous verbal contributions. There is a microphone in the sessions at this conference for that very reason. These gifts must be exercised decently and in order and in this church there are men who “screen” such words. In a larger meeting, fewer people will have the opportunity to participate in verbal ways. In smaller meetings we can pray beforehand, bring a verse, testimony or impression. “We are quick to dismiss impressions,” but we should not be this way. Bob offers this guideline for what impressions should be shared: no dates, no mates, no correction, no direction.
The Spirit is actively working in our lives all the time, whether we are alone or gathered as a church. We have so much more to know of God and His workings in our lives. As long as we are alive we should continue to seek God’s active presence experienced and encountered. He promises to be with us in His word, to be with us when we gather in His name. And He promises to manifest Himself through the gifts of His Spirit. The heart God seeks to cultivate is one of desperate dependence, eager expectation and humble responsiveness.
A brief note: For cessationists who are seeking to understand how the gifts of the Spirit are manifested in the daily lives of those who believe in the continuing gifts, this will surely be a helpful message. It should be available to order in the next few days from Sovereign Grace’s web site. You may not agree with all of it and some of it will probably give you strange twitches, but it will prove helpful in understanding the other side of the debate.