The challenge of walking with the God who knows me
Names changed throughout except in some cases where the person involved has been or is in ministry.
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If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. 2 Cor 5:17
“When he (Barnabas) arrived and saw the evidence of the grace of God, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”
At the beginning of our time in Southampton, the students in the ministry went to a large variety of churches. They would talk about their churches, and I thought it would be good to see for myself this rich variety that they were attending.
As I visited each one, I would feel more at home in a church that was closer to my own than to one of another tradition. I realised that it revolved around what was affirmed. Evangelical churches would affirm those gifts such as teaching in which I was strong. Charismatic churches would affirm the more Spirit oriented gifts such as prophecy or speaking in tongues that I either did not have or was weak in. In a subtle manor, I felt my spirituality despised by traditions that affirmed other gifts.
I realised, that these gifts given by the Holy Spirit, are neither the fruit of the Spirit nor indications of obedience. Gifts of the Spirit are given as the Spirit chooses to the mature or indeed to babes in Christ. So I must resist the trap of evaluating the spirituality of people on the basis of the grace God is pouring out through their gifts.
It took some years to be able to see that the more Bible oriented Preaching and Bible study leading, were also gifts in exactly the same way as the more evidently Spiritual gifts of tongues. I heard of a highly acclaimed Bible teacher caught having secret liaisons. It was clear he could teach, and he knew the Bible, but one was left wondering about the intimacy of his relationship with Jesus. Could good preaching, or more particularly a deep insight into the Bible, be an indication of spirituality in a situation such as this? Paul wrote: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom,” (Col 3:16a NIV) implying that the word might not be dwelling in us as we teach.
It was not long after this occurrence that the finger of Jesus pointed back at me. Someone made a comment that “it is easy to confuse the gift of God with the grace of God”. I realised that when leading Bible studies, I was depending on gifting in leading small groups to carry the discussion instead of looking to Jesus for his grace to be at work. Ironically, it was through pressure on time caused by much prayer, seeking God’s face that was leading to this situation. There was an intimacy with him, but when it came to this study I did not pray. I was mistaking the outworking of gifting for an indication of grace. The mechanics were going well, but there was a continual frustration over the development of those in the group. I had to rethink my whole approach and attitude towards this group.
GIFTS AND GRACE