Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Little Yeast

Now, I’m not a baker, but I understand that one of the key ingredients is yeast. Just a little bit of yeast can work its way through a large amount of dough. Yeast transforms the dough into something that rises and expands. Jesus understood this and He used yeast to as teaching point to illustrate both healthy and unhealthy activities in our lives.

So using stories and analogies, He took the concept of yeast to explain a couple points:

1) He explains that God’s reign in our lives and the resulting expansion of His kingdom through us is like a little yeast added to a lot of flour. (Matthew 13:33) Accepting the Kingdom’s authority in our lives transforms us, and it works through every area of our life, changing us from “glory to glory”.

2) However, He used the concept of yeast working through dough to also explain our need to stay away from bad teaching. When talking to His disciples, He warned them to be on guard against the teachings of the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Herod (Matthew 16:1-2, Mark 8:15).

At first glance, this warning may seem to be directed at just the church fathers, something entered into the historical record to say: “Hey guys, you don’t know it, but you’re going to start my church and I want you to steer clear of all the bad teaching that’s out there. You know what I mean? Get the church off to a good start!” But I don’t believe His warning was just for the early church and just to establish the right foundation. It is an encouragement for every believer to hold onto good teaching and cast off any bad doctrines. So after 2000+ years, has any bad yeast made its way in? Just a few years (maybe decades) after Christ’s death and resurrection, Paul wrote: “Get rid of the old yeast, so that you may be a new unleavened batch—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” So to answer my own question: “Yeah, I think there’s some bad stuff out there.”

Let’s think about this further. Jesus mentioned a few people by name and depending upon which Gospel account you’re reading, He says: “Steer clear of they’re teaching!” So who exactly were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Herod?

The Pharisees were the legalistic church. “Follow the law or be killed!” (or ostracized, excommunicated, ridiculed, etc.) In his own words, prior to a life-changing encounter with the Risen Jesus, Paul was a Pharisee of Pharisees – he followed the law with miserable perfection. Yet in his religious eagerness, he murdered members of the early church. Legalistic, he was out for justice over grace… that is until Jesus showed Paul just how blind his religiosity had made him.

The Sadducees on the other hand were the liberal church. They were willing to explain away the teachings of scripture as it fit their appetite of the day. Not too different from the liberal theologians of today, they would pick and choose what they wanted to believe from Scripture, more as a self-edification exercise than to truly understand how to enter the Kingdom of God.

Meanwhile, Herod was the government and the culture. There were several Herods, and they were an interestingly dysfunctional family, but I think it’s safe to say that Herod represented the secular worship of Self and the original sin of man: to become one’s own god. Rather than submitting to the reign of God, Herod submitted to Caesar, playing the political games necessary to elevate himself. He received his reward from the worship of other men, but was truly not a good role-model.

Looking at what each of these represented, I can’t help but believe bad yeast is still out there: the legalistic church, the liberal church, and the secular worship of Self. As His disciples, we’re each called to listen with a discerning ear, to question what subtleties of bad doctrine we’ve allowed to enter into our thought processes, and to humbly ask God to continue to reveal truth to us – transforming truth that will work its way through our way of thinking, change our knee-jerk reactions, and influence the world around us so that every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, the King of our lives, and the great Friend we all so desperately need!

May the good yeast of the Kingdom work in you, through you, for you, and for the restoration of a needy, fallen world!
copyright ©2012 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Scriptural Perspective on Spiritual Gifts (Part 3)

Continued from http://mitchellmalloy.blogspot.com/2012/07/scriptural-perspective-on-spiritual.html
Part 3 – New Testament Summary

So I entitled this series “The Scriptural Perspective on Spiritual Gifts”, but I feel like I’m barely scratching the surface of all that the Bible has to say about this important subject. I had intended to write about "Applied Love", but I thought it important to actually outline my conclusions. I could probably write a mini-chapter on most of these, so I offer them simply as a starting point for others to explore. It’s my desire and encouragement that anyone reading this go straight to the Bible. Don’t just take someone else’s understanding as the final authority on the subject. Rather, ask the Holy Spirit to instruct you further about this topic.

  1. (1 Corinthians 12:1) It’s important for believers to know about spiritual gifts.
  2. (Matthew 7:14-16, 21-23, 2 Peter 2:1-3, 1 John 4:1-3) The manifestation of spiritual gifts through a person is not evidence of God working in that person’s life, even if the results seem to line up with God’s will (e.g. – prophesies in God’s Name, casting out demons, etc.).
  3. (Mark 16:20, Hebrews 2:3-4) The gifts bear witness to both God and His salvation plan
  4. (1 Corinthians 12:3) The gifts submit to the authority of Jesus, proclaiming by the way they are administered that “Jesus is Lord!”
  5. (1 Corinthians 12:4-5,8-11) There’s a different mix of giftings and services in both individuals and church bodies
  6. (1 Corinthians 12:7) The gifts are given more for the common good, building up a group of people rather than edifying an individual.
  7. (1 Corinthians 12:12-27) There’s one Body, many parts, each part being dependent upon the gifts and abilities of others.
  8. (1 Corinthians 12:27-30) There are different roles through which the members of the Body minister to each other.
  9. (1 Corinthians 12:31-14:1) There is a priority to the gifts, measured by usefulness in loving and building up others.
  10. (1 Corinthians 12:31-13:13, Galatians 5:5, Ephesians 2:8, 2 Thessalonians 2:16,1 John 4:19) faith, hope and love are the greatest spiritual gifts.
  11. (1 Corinthians 13:12) Even with these spiritual gifts, we still see but a poor reflection of spiritual reality.
  12. (John 15:5) God’s model with respect to our lives and fruitfulness is one of total dependence upon Him.
  13. (1 Corinthians 14:1-12) We should eagerly desire the greater gifts (see #8 above), especially prophecy as a way to strengthen, encourage, comfort and build up the church as demonstration of love.
  14. (1 Corinthians 14:39) We should be eager to prophesy.
  15. (1 Corinthians 14:39) We should not forbid a believer from speaking in tongues.
  16. (1 Corinthians 14:22) The gift of tongues is a sign to unbelievers and prophecy is reserved for building up of believers. Prophecy should not be used for evangelization.
  17. (1 Corinthians 14:13-28) If the gift of tongues is used as a public sign or proclamation, it should have an interpretation.
  18. (1 Corinthians 14:39) The administration of all spiritual gifts should be performed in an orderly way. A public display of the gift should be done in submission to the God-ordained authority appointed to lead that congregation.
  19. (Romans 11:29, Ephesians 4:7-11) A spiritual gift can be associated with a calling that reflects one or more leadership roles: Apostle (meaning “a person who has been sent” such as a missionary), prophet, evangelist, pastor (shepherd / mentor / coach), and educator. Jonah, although resistant to his calling, played the role of Apostle, Prophet and Evangelist, bringing the entire city of Nineveh to repentance.
  20. (Romans 11:29) Once God has imparted a spiritual gift either constitutionally or as part of a vocational calling, it belongs to the recipient; however, the Holy Spirit is still free to work supernaturally in any situation without having to a spiritual gift.
  21. (Romans 12:3-8) Whatever set of gifts that God puts into us, we should use them humbly, generously and joyfully.
  22. (Ephesians 4:11-12, 16) The gifts given to leaders are intended to build up the Body of believers, equipping each member for ministry and every member of the Body is called to minister to other members of the Body.
  23. (1 Thessalonians 5:19-21, Acts 21:10-14, 1 John 4:1-3) Leadership is called to walk the delicate balance of testing prophetic words without discouraging prophesy. They need to learn to hold onto what is known to be good and discern when a prophetic word is only part of the truth (e.g. – Paul refusing to be dissuaded from going to Jerusalem despite the fact that it would result in his suffering).
  24. (1 Timothy 1:17-19, 4:13-15) Prophecy encourages us to persevere in our calling.
  25. (Revelation 11:2-6) The supernatural manifestation of spiritual gifts continues through this very day and will continue through the last days as described clearly in the Book of Revelation.
It is also interesting what Scripture does not talk to:
  1. Scripture does not categorize the gifts into ordinary / extraordinary or prophetic / administrative. This is something done by man, and as I’ve already written (http://mitchellmalloy.blogspot.com/2012/07/signs-in-end-times-church-part-4.html), it’s my belief that the gifts of knowledge, wisdom and leadership should govern and empower the other gifts.
  2. Finally, I am not aware of any frequency for manifestation. Everything is in God’s timing. His power does not need to be evidenced supernaturally at every gathering of believers to somehow legitimize a church service. It’s enough that He loves us and that we reflect His love through obedience and by loving each other. Ultimately, love is the center purpose of every spiritual gift.

copyright ©2012 Mitchell Malloy (http://mitchellmalloyblogspot.com/)