(PART 2) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
(PART 2) YOU ARE A CHRISTIAN. NOW WHAT?
Where Should I Go to Church That Will Benefit Me Spiritually?
I can’t stress this enough. This is of paramount importance to any believer. The idea of where you should go to church needs to be determined by what you should look for in whatever church you decide to visit. Wherever it is that you have chosen to visit, someone probably will greet you as you proceed to enter the facility. In some cases, there will be literature available which will inform you about said church. You will fill it out and submit it to someone and/or take it home with you. Most churches will have a service format of music, a financial offering, a message, announcements, a closing in prayer, and in some cases will be followed by a place to gather for coffee, tea, and snacks. This is all well and fine.
However, there are some things to which you should pay close attention. Failure to recognize what these things are will severely hamper your Christian walk. Your purpose in going to church shouldn’t be just to have a place where you can socialize with your friends or neighbors while consuming the available food and drinks. It should be a place where you learn how to become a mature adult in Christ.
Over the years, I have attended many churches. I was initially brought up Catholic. There was definitely an allure to this church. Many of the buildings had an architectural aura all to themselves. The Mass, even though at that time was in Latin, exhibited a kind of formal ceremonial order. The priests seemed to portray in their mannerisms that the rituals they were engaged in while conducting Mass were necessary to please God. The music had a mystical sense to it. There was a place to go if you needed to confess your sins. Certain days of the year were set aside as being vitally important to attend. Everything that was done seemed to have a Godly slant to it. Do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that. If you followed the directives to the best of your ability, you were told that you would go to purgatory and eventually to heaven, or that you might even go straight to heaven if the life that you lived before God and man had been exemplary.
As I grew up and was passing through my teenage years, I became less and less interested in attending church. Maybe in part this was because I wanted to sow oats, like many young men. Maybe it was also in part because something was missing in this church. It was not until my middle twenties that I had a desire to find God. I began my journey by attending many churches in my hometown area. I did not know what to look for other than for God Himself.
What was it that would convince me that I had found Him; or rather that He had found me? The only thing I was aware of as a possible answer to this question occurred to me a few years earlier when I was attending a four-year liberal arts college. One of the electives that I took had the intention of proving that the Bible had errors in it. The professor focused on the life of King Saul, who was Israel’s first king. Apparently, there were a few books in the Old Testament that talked about his life and in some cases gave what appeared to be contradictory information concerning it.
The one thing that stood out to me was how God was personal with him through various means (e.g. prophets, the on-resting Spirit, the Ark of God, the casting of lots, etc.). So, as I was visiting different churches, my thought process was this: If God was personal with King Saul, why couldn’t He be personal with me?
As time passed, I found an assembly of believers where I was given an opportunity to meet this one, true, personal God for myself. What is it that caused Him to come into my life? Whatever it is, this is one of the many things you should look for when visiting a church assembly. As a Christian, I’m sure you are already aware of this.
What is this called?
A. The preaching of the Gospel
Without the preaching of the Gospel (good news), there will be no opportunity for unbelievers to receive the Holy Spirit. Subsequently, the assembly will be left trying to serve God in their own energy. This is called religion; trying to please God by what we do in our own power.
The Gospel message is the good news that Christ, who is the God-man, paid for the sins of the whole world which canceled their debt (providing forgiveness). He died on a cross and forthwith descended into hell. He preached unto the spirits (fallen angels) who were in prison (in a place called Tartarus). After three days, by means of the Holy Spirit, He was raised from the dead. His human spirit re-entered his fleshly body, which became transformed into a glorified body, never to die again.
He remained on earth for forty days following his resurrection and witnessed to over 500 people. After that, he ascended into heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God the Father, thus providing the opportunity for mankind to enter this heavenly abode. For any person in this dispensation, which is called the Church Age, to enter this place upon physical death, he/she must satisfy two conditions.
With this in mind, you should be looking for someone in leadership who will ask out loud if anyone in the audience would like to begin anew by receiving a new nature, no matter what sins they have committed in the past. They might ask those in attendance to come to the front near where they are standing or just simply to stay put. An invitation should be presented for them to make a decision to repent of their sins to God the Father and believe in His Son Jesus Christ.
Some leaders might ask for a showing of hands from anyone who has responded to the gospel. This is usually done so that literature can be given to them at this moment by some of the church members who are watching for the raised hands. This literature might contain a form where they can provide personal information. There may be materials for them to read and a schedule of church events.
Whether the church assembly is small or large in number, if you don’t hear the Gospel preached, I would attend a couple of more times. If the Gospel is still not mentioned, then this should serve as a red flag. If it appears that the Gospel is being preached, then listen carefully to what is being said and make sure an accurate declaration is being stated of who Christ is. Before we continue, consider these thoughts regarding what the Gospel is not.
And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. (1 John 4:3)
The Gospel message should not declare that Jesus is only a teacher, a prophet, and the Son of God. It is true that Jesus is a teacher, a prophet, and the Son of God, but He is also God come in the flesh as one of the members of the Trinity; the other two being God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. I am not suggesting that there are three Gods, but I am declaring that there is one God in essence, who reveals himself in three persons.
Anyone who says that Jesus is not God come in the flesh is antichrist (an opponent of Christ’s incarnation). I believe the leadership and assembly in this type of environment will not have received the indwelling Spirit, even though they have repented to God the Father and believed in Jesus as a prophet, teacher, and Son of God. Therefore, they will be void of God’s power and guidance. Those who attend this church, even if they are born again and have received the indwelling Spirit, will likewise not grow because the teachings are man-centered and not Spirit-initiated.
The next thing to look for when attending church is a direct result of the preaching of the Gospel.
What do you think this is?
B. The gifts of the Holy Spirit
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
If the Gospel has been preached and responded to, then the Holy Spirit will have come to indwell and give each of the newly converted to the Christian faith at least one gift (spiritual endowment). The gifts of the Holy Spirit are divine empowerments, extraordinary powers, and favor which one receives without any merit of his/her own.
Don’t confuse the gifts of the Holy Spirit with natural talents. Talents are received at birth. They are natural endowments. Gifts are not talents. They are given to each member for the edification of the church. Without the indwelling Holy Spirit, these gifts cannot be received.
What is the name for each of these gifts, and in what manner do they provide edification for the church assembly? The mentioning of the various gifts of the Holy Spirit are found in Romans 12:6-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:1, 7-10, 28. Sometimes a gift is mentioned in both sections of scripture under a different name.
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; (Ephesians 4:11)
There is also another type of gift known as an office (leadership) gift. Every believer is given at least one non-office gift by the Holy Spirit. However, not every believer is given an office gift. Those include apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor - teacher.
The following are the names of the gifts (non-office) of the Holy Spirit along with their functions. Please read each one and enjoy the divine blessings that each provides for the edification of the body of Christ.
The Inspiration Gifts
These gifts say something.
- Prophecy is the anointed speaking forth of words of edification (to build up), of exhortation (a call to encouragement), and of comfort (consolation includes the healing of distress, sorrow, persecution, and suffering for the church).7 This is not preaching but Prophecy is a supernatural utterance that comes from a person who is anointed to speak the treasures of God to the body of Christ.8 This gift is designed to warn men and woman of sin or shortcomings.9
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. (Acts 13:1-2)
- Divers kinds of tongues means speaking in a foreign language that one has not learned which is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The gift of tongues speaks to God and to the sinner, while prophecy speaks only to the people.
And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men, out of every nation under heaven. Now when this was noised abroad, the multitude came together, and were confounded, because that every man heard them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:4-6)
- Interpretation of tongues explains the meaning of the words which were spoken in a foreign tongue into the known language of the hearers.
The Power Gifts
These gifts involve supernatural ability and energy.
- Faith is a peculiar impulse that came upon the apostles when any difficult matter was to be performed, which inwardly assured them that God's power would assist them in the performance of it.10 Another way of describing this gift is by saying that God brings about a supernatural change with no human effort involved. In other words, God does something on our behalf, but independent of us. This gift can operate in areas of divine protection and divine provision.11
Peter, therefore, was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him. And when Herod would have brought him forth, the same night Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains: and the keepers before the door kept the prison. And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands. (Acts 12:5-7)
- Healing is the power to heal various kinds of illnesses or diseases. Healing can come through a prayer of faith and the laying on of hands by the elders (James 5:14-15) or by speaking a word from the Lord for a specific healing (Acts 3:6). We can pray and lay hands on the sick as we respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit (Acts 28:8).
Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms. And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us. And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk. And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. (Acts 3:1-7)
- The working of miracles are extraordinary and unusual kinds of miracles. God entrusts a believer with strength or an energy that we don’t normally have. Another way of saying this is a believer does a supernatural act by the divine energy of the Holy Spirit.12
And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. (Acts 28:3-5)
These gifts reveal God’s truth to mankind.
- The word of knowledge is the revealing of a fact in existence (of the present or past) that can only be supernaturally revealed. In other words, this is not something that could be known naturally but something one’s eyes have not seen, and ears have not heard.13
The Holy Spirit transmits his specific knowledge to you on something that you would have no ability or means to be able to know about with your own limited intelligence and knowledge levels. This can come in the form of: a thought or an impression on your mind; a vision or a picture in your mind’s eye, a scripture for yourself or a direct word from the Lord to give to someone else. 2 Kings 20:1 14 This specific knowledge can also be referred to as a divinely given power to appropriate spiritual intuition in problem-solving.15
While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. (Acts 10:19-20)
- The word of wisdom reveals the prophetic future. God reveals something that has not come to pass.
And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me. For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. (Acts 1:4-5)
- Discerning of spirits is the divine ability to discern the presence and activity of a spirit that motivates a human being, whether good or bad.16
This enables us to appraise motives so that we can know whether a person is telling the truth. Their doctrine is subject to examination, and what they are saying should be considered as we confirm whether it proceeded from the Spirit of God or not.
Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand. (Acts 13:9-11)
But a certain man named Ananias, with Sapphira, his wife, sold a possession, And kept back part of the price, his wife also being privy to it, and brought a certain part, and laid it at the apostles' feet. But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? (Acts 5:1-3)
But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. (Ephesians 4:7)
God gives each member of the body of Christ at least one non-office gift as shall manifest the work and nature of the Spirit’s operation on the mind.17 This gives each person some proof of the Spirit’s presence to promote harmony in the church.
For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:14-20)
The diversity of gifts is given to the members to bring about reliance upon each member. There is not one particular gift that is given to each member. There are more gifts of the Spirit other than the nine that were just mentioned, such as:
- Teaching: emphasizes accuracy of words and a love to study; delights in research to validate truth.18
- Exhorting: encourages other believers along with being motivated by a desire to see people grow and mature in the Lord.19
- Giving with simplicity: to impart one’s earthly possessions without seeking any personal or selfish ends; excited to bless others; desires to give in secret.
- Ruling with diligence/governments: are good organizers and finders of efficient ways of getting work done. Although they may not seek leadership, they will assume it when no leader is available.20
- Showing mercy with cheerfulness: is being moved by the Spirit to devote oneself to works of mercy (e.g. caring for the widows, sick, and the poor) with a happy temper. They sense the joy or distress in other people and are sensitive to their feelings and needs. They are motivated by a desire to see people healed of hurts.21
- Helps/ministry: meets needs; highly motivated doers; concerned with serving and meeting short-term goals; these were the apostles' helpers, the persons who accompanied them, baptizing those who were converted by them, and were sent by them to such places as they could not attend to, being otherwise employed; those who in any way aided or rendered assistance in the church, and may refer to the temporal affairs of the church.22
What I wanted you to notice about the initial nine gifts which were presented is that they are not man-centered. In other words, the Holy Spirit is a unique participant in the exercise of each of these gifts. He provides a supernatural utterance (a peculiar impulse that provides assurance that His power will assist in the performing of some matter), divine energy, and the unveiling of truth for the past, present, or future.
But beware of counterfeit gifts!
Some churches will declare the gifts of the Spirit to be:
- Our desire to contemplate the things of God; to be clever or smart.
- Understanding – Allows one to grasp truth.
- Counsel – To be able to judge how best to act almost by intuition.
- Fortitude (courage) - Gives us the strength to follow through on the actions suggested by the gift of counsel.23
- Knowledge – The ability to judge all things according to truth; a human accumulation of facts.
- Piety – The willingness to worship and serve God.
- Fear of the Lord – The desire to not offend God.
- Faith – To believe for something.
As you can see, these counterfeit gifts are man’s attempts or desires to do this or that without any reliance on the Holy Spirit. The initial nine gifts of the Holy Spirit, however, are exercised by means of the prompting of the Holy Spirit.
If the Gospel is not being preached and there is no evidence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then you could conclude that the assembly you are involved in is religious, being void of the Spirit. You might respond to this assumption by saying that you don’t believe this to be the case because you are a born again believer who happens to attend that specific assembly. It is true that some who attend such a church are indeed born again, but it is also true that God is not evidencing himself in this congregation.
7Lester Sumrall, The Gifts and Ministries of the Holy Spirit, Lester Sumrall Evangelical Association, 1982
10The Nine Gifts of the Holy Spirit-BITS N PIECES OF GOLD. 24 March 2015 ˂http://bits-n-pieces-of-gold.weebly.com/9-gifts-of-the-holy-spirit.html>.
14The 9 Gifts of the Holy Spirit. 24 March 2015 ˂http://www.bible-knowledge.com/gifts-of-the-holy-spirit/>.
15The 9 Gifts of the Holy Spirit.
18What are Spiritual Motivational Gifts? 24 March 2015 ˂http://christianity.about.com/od/holyspirittopicalstudy/a/spiritualgifts_2.htm>.
19What are Spiritual Motivational Gifts?
20What are Spiritual Motivational Gifts?
21What are Spiritual Motivational Gifts?
23Scott Richert, The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit, 26 March 2015
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