Growing up in Pentecostal or charismatic circles, there was always a heavy emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
In fact, it is believed by many that the expression of the gifts especially that of the gift of tongues, is the evidence of the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
As I have grown to desire more of the gifts especially those gifts such as prophecy, miracles, healings and faith, I believe Holy Spirit has begun to widen my scope and view on the way the gifts work and how they are not a stand alone expression of God’s Spirit.
It is my belief, that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are tools given to us in order to help foster the growth of and as a result of the working of the fruits of the Holy Spirit and NOT to be a substitute for them.
So how do I arrive at this conclusion? Well I want to give you some of the following points to help clarify.
The bible tells us that “As a man in his heart, so is he” to paraphrase. In essence this means that the outward behaviors and actions of a person are the result of the thoughts and emotions they have inside.
A behavior always starts as a thought or thinking pattern. It is the mind that drives the body into action.
Just as with our minds and bodies, it is Christ, our head who drives us (His body) into action. Just as Jesus could not act on His own without the direction and example of the Father, so we too, as the body are dictated by the direction of our head; Jesus Christ.
Every outward action of His body being a result of His thoughts and emotions.
Sometimes, it appears that the outward actions of a person are good, noble and even righteous (especially when we see what appears to be gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy or tongues) but when examining the intent behind such things and the heart condition of said people, it does not necessarily take long to discern what spirit is really in operation behind it.
It is much like seeing an apple that looks firm, ripe and delicious only to bite into it and find that it is soft, mushy and rotten inside.
Sometimes this may seem difficult at first to disseminate, but it is not impossible. The fruit test, not the gift test ultimately tells us about the connection to God’s heart that a person has or may be lacking.
I want to be clear here as well, that when this is perceived, it should be our motivation not to criticize or condemn. Our hearts must be in the right place and in line with the heart of Jesus – to see these persons come into the knowledge of God and to be connected to Him in deep relationship and to operate in the fullness of all that God has dreamed for them!
Part of my reason and really largely the reason for writing on this is to address why we have the gifts of Holy Spirit and the real motivation that should be partnered with them.
The gifts of Holy Spirit are for the sole purpose of expressing the love of God and fostering relationship and connection to His heart. Everything that God does and is, is to that end. If it is not motivated by that and to that end, simply put it is not of God’s design.
Am I saying that God cannot perform gifts through people who are not connected relationally to God?
No, the scriptures make it very clear that there are going to be many who can operate in faith and even the revelatory gifts but absolutely do not know God nor are they connected to His heart:
Matthew 7:21-23 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
21 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name and driven out demons in Your name and done many mighty works in Your name?
23 And then I will say to them openly (publicly), I never knew you; depart from Me, you who act wickedly [disregarding My commands].
So what IS the will of God? In the scriptures above Jesus explains that anyone who does the will of His Father keeps the Fathers commandments. So what are His commandments? Let’s examine what the Word says about this:
Jesus gives us the very simplistic mandate that is God’s will and His mandate or commandments for us:
Matthew 22:36-40Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
36 Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light—which are heavy?]
37 And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect).
38 This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment.
39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself.
40 These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.
Ok, so now we know what the commandment is which inherently expresses what Gods will or desire of us is; to love. But, what does that look like? How do we love? What does love do? What IS love?
The Apostle Paul gives a very in depth outline of this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
4 Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy, is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily.
5 It is not conceited (arrogant and inflated with pride); it is not rude (unmannerly) and does not act unbecomingly. Love (God’s love in us) does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it [it pays no attention to a suffered wrong].
6 It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail.
7 Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening].
8 Love never fails [never fades out or becomes obsolete or comes to an end]. As for prophecy (the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), it will be fulfilled and pass away; as for tongues, they will be destroyed and cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away [it will lose its value and be superseded by truth].
So where does the fruit of the spirit come into play? The fruit of the spirit is the result of the love of God reigning in our hearts. It is the manifest evidence that the spirit of God lives in our hearts and has Lordship there and that we are connected relationally with God.
Galatians 5:22-23 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
22 But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness,
23 Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge].
It is this love, this nature and these attributes or characteristic “fruits”, that produces by default the great motivation and the power to operate in the gifts of the spirit in the way God has intended.
When we couple the heart of God with the gifts of God, then we see real power at work with the right motivation because we have the right connection to God – A relationship in which not only are we able to use His gifts, but we know Him and He knows us.
When Jesus performed miracles of healing, it was because He was overcome with compassion.
The definition of compassion:
sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
synonyms: pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity
Compassion is the result of a heart that is ruled by love.
The gifts cannot and will not ever be a substitute for nor will they be evidence of relationship with God. Ultimately, without relationship with God and coming to know and live out God’s heart (by demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit and keeping His commandments) the gifts of the Holy Spirit are useless to us in the context of being connected to God relationally, because exercising a gift is not the same as participating in intimate relationship. Paul makes this abundantly clear when writing to the church at Corinth:
1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
13 If I [can] speak in the tongues of men and [even] of angels, but have not love (that reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion such [a]as is inspired by God’s love for and in us), I am only a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.
2 And if I have prophetic powers ([b]the gift of interpreting the divine will and purpose), and understand all the secret truths and mysteries and possess all knowledge, and if I have [sufficient] faith so that I can remove mountains, but have not love (God’s love in me) I am nothing (a useless nobody).
3 Even if I dole out all that I have [to the poor in providing] food, and if I surrender my body to be burned or in order that I may glory, but have not love (God’s love in me), I gain nothing.
As the new testament church, we want to see the gifts of the spirit manifested. We want to see the sick healed, the cripple walk, to preach the gospel and bind up the broken hearts of people. We welcome and desire these things greatly but we want to do so keeping the right order of priority.
We want and desire these things but not at the expense of sidestepping or neglecting the pursuit of love, of relationship with our God so that we may make His heart and His will our own.
1 Corinthians 12:31 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
31 But earnestly desire and zealously cultivate the greatest and best gifts and graces (the higher gifts and the choicest graces). And yet I will show you a still more excellent way [one that is better by far and the highest of them all—love].
1 Corinthians 14:1 Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
14 Eagerly pursue and seek to acquire [this] love [make it your aim, your great quest]; and earnestly desire and cultivate the spiritual endowments (gifts), especially that you may prophesy ([a]interpret the divine will and purpose in inspired preaching and teaching).
Taking on the heart and will of God is not about being a servant, it is about becoming like God. Manifesting His inherent nature and character through us because it is in our DNA to do so.
There is so much that God has for us and we must never allow ourselves to become so focused on one blessing that it robs us of all the others and especially that the blessings and gifts do not rob us of or supersede relationship.
Even if our love is weak, it is not through works or gifts that we grow stronger, it is in beholding God. Spending time just in His presence, getting to know Him and be in relationship with Him, ultimately we come to revelation by experiencing God Himself.
To close, I want to offer the following excerpt from the teaching entitled Abiding in Love: Experiencing the Heart of God by Mike Bickle of IHOP.
“In 1 John 4:9, John declares how the love of God works in terms of our personal experience. John says we love Him because He first loved us. What he means by that is we love Him to the degree that we understand that He loves us. We will only love God to the measure that we see He loves us. In other words, the source of our love for God is rooted in our growing understanding of how much He loves us. Our love for God is actually a response to revelation of His love for us.
Our worship of God is a response to revelation of the love of God. We love more and we worship more when we see more. When we gain more revelation, more insight—I use the word revelation and insight interchangeably—when we gain more insight, we love more, and we worship more.
So whenever our love is weak, which mine is continually, I will focus my attention on gaining more understanding of how God feels about me. When I see the way God loves me, it tenderizes me, it changes the way I see myself, and it changes the way I see you.
The answer is always rooted in gaining more understanding, seeing more. I urge young people in their quest to love God with all of their heart, “Do not try harder, but see more. Focus on seeing more. Put your energy into gaining more understanding of the heart of God toward you instead of trying harder to love. Do not grit your teeth and determine this time you really mean it for real. Put your energy in seeing more, because when you see more, you will feel differently. You will see yourself differently; you will see people differently. On the inside you will feel differently, when you feel this glorious free love of God that He gives towards us.”