A few months ago, I attended the Brooklyn Tabernacle’s conference and prayer meeting. While I was there, I was confronted by lack of receptivity to God and what He would want to do in and through me. I was open to ministry strategy and the study of theology, but what about God answering big prayers or awakening spiritual gifts that I don’t really understand?
During the season of Epiphany at Apostles Church, we are going through the 7 signs of Jesus recorded in the gospel of John. This has led to some amazing conversations about spiritual gifts, especially those typically associated with the charismatic wing of the church.
As someone who associates more with Reformed Theology, loves John Piper, and named his 2nd son after the dead theologian John Calvin, I’ve always settled with the typically charismatic gifts as still existing but certainly not completely comfortable with them. These are things like healing, prophecy, tongues, and discerning spirits.
Charismatic With a Seatbelt or Cognitively Charismatic?
Mark Driscoll has used the term charismatic with a seatbelt to describe a willingness toward the gifts, but trying to avoid some notoriously crazy associations with the charismatic gifts.
That always sounded good, but the last few months I’ve realized that I have been merely cognitively charismatic. Open to the charismatic gifts in knowledge only, believing them to exist, but not really open to practicing any of them.
Demystifying the gifts
This sermon series at church has been incredibly helpful because the scriptures speak of Jesus healing people. He heals people physically, spiritually, and performs all kinds of amazing miracles. Jesus told His disciples that they would do greater works than these before speaking about the Holy Spirit, God who dwells in and empowers Christians with spiritual gifts.
Christians are comfortable with the gifts for preachers and teachers, but the charismatic gifts are mentioned right in line with those. In the past as I have thought about gifts of healing or prophecy, I’ve imagined them as magical powers and mystical gifts.
But seeing them as I would see the gifts of teaching and preaching has been incredibly helpful.
Earnestly Desiring the Gifts
In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul challenges the church to earnestly desire these gifts. This has led me to approach God in prayer with an openness, not simply because I want to see people healed or truth be proclaimed through prophecy (though I do!), but really because I want people to see Jesus as glorious. That same chapter says these gifts are given for the common good. Are we forfeiting the common good of others by being merely cognitively charismatic?
I think we are.
Why not now?
1 Corinthians 13 serves as a reminder that greater than these gifts is a focus on love and in reality these gifts lack any power without love and compassion. My challenge is why wouldn’t we want to see these spiritual gifts happen in our church? Why wouldn’t we want to see people healed?
My hope and prayer for this sermon series on Signs is that it begins to cultivate openness to spiritual gifts within our church, that a community could really embody Jesus to one another and to our city.
If you really believe God can do really powerful things, why not be open to God using you. And why wait? Why not now?