First Things @ First

I've been focusing on the importance of the work of the Holy Spirit in recent weeks. One area that has promoted far too much competition and comparison within the Church is the issue surrounding spiritual gifts. Many have wrongly concluded that spiritual gifts are evidence of spiritual maturity. In other words, IF I perform a particular 'sign' gift, then I am showing evidence of greater usefulness to Christ. The destructive nature of this false teaching is that unless someone else can perform the same, then that individual is somehow perceived to be less spiritual and thus less useful to God in the ministry of His Church, at least by some.

If you will carefully read the most exhaustive text on the matter-- (1 Corinthians 12-14)--you will discover something important regarding this conversation. In fact, it's what you will not discover that is key to one's understanding.

In those three chapters of Paul's letter to believers at Corinth, (a church fellowship that was overrun with comparison and competition with each other) you won't find one phrase that points to spiritual gifts being an indicator of spiritual maturity. Not one.

If you will examine Paul's letter to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 5:18), he says, "be not drunk with wine, but be filled with the Holy Spirit,..." When you examine that text closely, you will discover that there is no period at the end of that verse. There is a comma instead. Why is that important?

Being filled with the Holy Spirit is not the end, the goal, the prize; being filled with the Spirit is the beginning, the start, the launch platform of service to God. Being filled with the Spirit produces evidence of one's humility in serving the Lord.

If you care to examine further, look at what follows the phrase 'be being filled with the Spirit,'' The Bible says, 'speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart.' This is according to O.S. Hawkins the inward evidence of being filled with the Spirit. The Spirit of God produces a song in our heart.

By the way, it has been correctly observed that making melody is something the Spirit produces. By contrast, focusing on 'the beat' or rhythm of a song is sourced in the flesh. The contrast reveals whether your worship is Spirit filled or fleshly driven. That distinction, when consistently filtered through divine wisdom significantly narrows the great divide that exists in the Church today between certain so-called worship styles.

If Christ is not the source and sum of the theme in the song being sung or the message being shared, it does not exalt the Person of Christ nor does it magnify His work of grace. Putting a religious label or spin on a song will not produce a melody in your heart, no matter how popular it may be. The inward evidence of a person being Spirit-filled produces a melody in the heart that may never be put to music at all. It flows from within and simply cannot be contained.

Something else; Paul continues in verse 20 with these Spirit inspired words, 'giving thanks always...' To whom is our thanks directed? God. The One who extravagantly gives all things for us to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17).

Hawkins refers to this as the upward evidence. My spirit bearing witness with His Spirit (Romans 8:16) produces evidence of a heart that is grateful for His abounding grace. This response to grace reveals spiritual maturity much more accurately than seeking a spiritual gift to perform/parade in front of Christian peers for personal glory or gain.

Being filled with the Spirit is not a competitive assignment, nor should it be a comparison assault on a brother or sister in Christ. We don't 'get' gifts. Therefore, we do not seek certain gifts. We are given gifts for the purpose of serving God in the place that He has set us as a member of His Body, the Church

(1 Corinthians 12:18).

One last thing--verse 21 says, 'submitting to one another in the fear of God.'

Hawkins calls this the outward evidence of being consistently filled with the Spirit. When love for God is authentic, love for others will be the evidence (John 13:35). Personal preferences will be diminished, and the personal needs of others will be moved to the forefront as the outward evidence of being filled with the Spirit of God consistently.

I believe it would be spiritually productive every day if every believer simply decided who was gonna be the 'boss.' Who was gonna lead and who would decide to follow. And it would be most beneficial if we made that decision BEFORE the day actually began. Remember, as the Owner of our soul

(1 Corinthians 6:20), Christ is the Chief of Operations, as well. He is the only One who knows the way because He is The Way!

That is a good reminder for all of us on any day of the week God provides for us to live and enjoy, to serve and share the good news of God's grace!

So, be being filled with Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). The evidence will speak for itself!

Pstr K

Psalm 27:1

(ref. Day 16--'The Apostle's Code--O.S. Hawkins--pgs 36-37)