Our study of the spiritual gifts will usher us into a deeper level of the Holy Spirit, his person, his works and his ultimate power. Jesus stated in Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”
Witnesses: Some have not grasped the depths of the meaning of witnesses. Witnesses of Christ exceeds talk and tongue. Witness is an action word. It suggests action and this is what the Holy Spirit does through us in the manifestation of his gifts. Every manifested gift whether it is healing, a word of wisdom, a word of knowledge, speaking in tongues or interpreting tongues, miracles and prophecy or extraordinary or unusual faith; introduces God to the unbeliever and introduces God in a greater revelation to the believer.
While the word witness carries a variance of meanings, we want to use one definition in particular with that definition meaning: to bear witness to; testify to; give or afford evidence. This definition suggests more than word or speech. Witnesses of God are spread out throughout the earth and these witnesses are more than people. Creation shouts, proclaims and gives powerful evidence of Yahweh’s existence. The elements produce evidence of God. How much more so will the manifested gifts of the Spirit bring proof and truth to God and his nature? Thus far the church has exemplified much talk and very little action. What are we saying? We are saying that the church has shown more weakness being in Christ than power being in Christ. Our testimonies of actions that will give evidence of Christ are little to none. We talk a very good talk, yet our walk is weak. Many of us will become blown when we share Christ, and one comes to the Lord. We think that our verbal witness is the ultimate high. Verbal witness of Christ is a first principle of witnessing just as head start is a first principle of academics. We must move on to higher levels. No person stays in head start until he is 18 yrs. of age and no good teacher would allow an individual to exceed the age limit for head start. So, it is with the Spirit of God. He continuously unction, exhorts and calls to us to grow in order to go or take the path to higher ground.
Failure: What has caused the church to miss the mark? Great question. There are numerous answers however the major answer is self. Before undertaking the study of the Gifts of the Spirit we were instructed to read Luke 14:25-34. From the NIV translation we read:
Large crowds were traveling with Jesus and turning to them he said: “If anyone come to me and do not hate father and mother, wife and children, brother Yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying “This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.” “Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Won’t he first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples. “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.
Large crowds are following Jesus today. Some are following the Lord Jesus in spirit and truth; savoring every step, every teaching, seeking every opportunity and privilege to steal away with him to the secret places in God the Father. Yet and while there are others who follow and are distant in both mind and heart robbing the God head bodily of the joys that is longed for through intimacy with the beings they’ve created for their pleasure and enjoyment.
Many have come to the Lord in confession only. Their lifestyles have not changed much from what it was before accepting the Lord. In fact, many come expecting God to add to the lifestyle of selfishness and greed, lust and self-pleasures. Many are expecting God to get with them instead of them getting with Him. Change is the major theme of the Gospel accomplishable by Christ Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Our sinful lifestyles are what separate us from the richness of the Holy Spirit’s work. Our unwillingness to turn away from the deceitfulness of the world is what stunts the manifestations of God in the earth. We were created for God’s good pleasures and not our own.
We were instructed before undertaking our study, to count the cost of stepping out into the deep. This direction calls for additional prayer, additional fasting, increased word reading and lots of meditation. This path calls for the letting go of self, dying to earthly desires and becoming more alive to the indwelling Holy Spirit. This path calls for the annihilation of distractions and calls for the guarding of the presence of God. I want to take you to the word and show what happened when the presence of God was not guarded with the hearts, minds, and lives of his people. Keep in mind that the old covenant’s revelations are for our learning and some of the old covenant’s messages can still be made applicable to our lives today:
1 Samuel 4:1-22.
The Israelite’s went out to fight against the Philistines. The two armies met on the battlefield and waged war. The Israelite’s were defeated. Four thousand men lost their lives that day. When the soldiers who were left got back to camp, they began to question among themselves as to why Yahweh allowed them to be defeated. (They really should have asked God.) The soldiers: thinking they had found the answer to their confusion decided to bring the ark of the covenant of the Lord where Yahweh’s presence was enthroned between the Cherubim. (Keep in mind that only the priest, were allotted the responsibilities of handling the Ark of the Covenant. The soldiers were not moving by wisdom’s instructions, they were not moving in faith, they moved presumptuously. (The word presumptuous carries here the meaning of “to undertake or do something without right or permission; to undertake with unwarrantable boldness, to go too far in acting unwarrantable.) The soldiers sent men to Shiloh to get the ark to bring into their camp. When the men arrived to Shiloh to get the Ark of the Covenant two priests, the sons of Eli the High priest was there with the ark of the covenant of God. Well… they did not stop the soldiers from wanting to take God out of the house. Why was this do you suppose? Let’s get a brief history of the two priests. Look at chapter 2 verses 12-17. Eli’s sons were scoundrels; they had no regard for the Lord. Now the practice of the priests was that whenever any of the people offered a sacrifice, the priest’s servant would come with a three-pronged fork in his hand while the meat was being boiled and the servant would plunge the fork into the pan or the kettle, the caldron or the pot. Whatever the fork brought up, the priest would take for himself. They did this with all the Israelite’s that came to Shiloh. Before the sacrificer’s could burn the fat from the meat, the servant would come and say, “Give the priest some meat to roast and he will not accept boiled meat from you, give him raw meat.” If the sacrificer’s protested the servant would threaten him or her saying “now you either hand it over right now or I will take it by force. “The bible declares that this sin of the young men was very great in the Lord’s sight because the Lord’s offerings were treated with contempt.
Verse 22 of that same chapter says, “Eli was very old, and he heard about everything that his sons were doing to all Israel and how they slept with the women who served at the entrance of the tent meeting. In his rebuke to the sons Eli told them what he was hearing and asked them why they were doing such wicked deeds. Eli gave his sons a word of wisdom. He said “If people sin against one another God might mediate for the offender but if anyone sinned against the Lord who would intercede for them. (Keep in mind that the author and finisher of our faith had not yet arrived on the scene to shed blood for the remission of our sins against God) The sons didn’t listen. Since ministry to the Lord is what the priest were allotted and loving God with all heart, mind and body was commanded then every dishonesty, every bit of negligence, every evil should have been dealt with. The sons really should have been disallowed to fill the ministry office. Instead, Eli allowed his sons to continue in their office. Except you forsake Mother, father, sister, brother, wife, husband, children, boyfriend, and girlfriend…. you cannot be my disciples
God sent a prophet to Eli to give him a word from Him. God spoke to Eli through a prophet. Let’s look at this for a minute. Eli was a priest that served before the Lord. Why do you suppose God didn’t talk to Eli personally? Had Eli’s heart turned away from the Lord? Was God’s sending of the prophet his way of saying “Eli I am done with you? The word of God through the prophet was this. “Eli out of all the tribes of Israel I chose your ancestors to be my priest, to go up to my altar, to burn incense and to wear priestly attire in my presence. I even gave your ancestor’s family all the food offerings presented by the Israelite’s. Why Eli, do you scorn my sacrifices and offering that I have mandated for my dwelling. Why do you honor your sons more than me by fattening yourselves on the best parts of every offering made by my people Israel? (Will a man rob God?)
Humor: The humor in this portion of the scriptures is this: We can relate to what God is feeling right here. How many times have we purchased a particular snack or food for our enjoyment only and put it aside for the time when we chose to partake of it? We’ve gone to that place that housed our snack or food and it was gone. Somebody ate our stuff. Do we fly hot or do we fly hot! If the thief didn’t eat all of it, they’d leave just enough for you to say you had a piece of. If you want to run people hot…mess with their food. Hey…welcome to God’s world! I tell you that heaven knows our struggles.
Please know that God’s beef with Eli wasn’t just about the food. God’s beef with Eli
The prophet continues speaking for the Lord:
I had promised, God said through the prophet; that member of your family would minister before me forever, but now it aint happening. I will honor those who honor me but those who despise me will be disdained. Eli, the time is coming when I will cut short your strength and the strength of your priestly house so that no one will reach old age and you will see distress in my dwelling. Although good will be done to Israel just know that no one in your family line will ever reach old age. Every one of you that I do not cut off from serving at my altar I will spare only to destroy your sight and zap your strength and all of your descendant will die in the prime of life. As for your two boys they will both die on the same day and their deaths will serve as a sign to you. I’m gonna raise me up a faithful priest who will do all that is in my mind and my heart. I will establish his priestly office in his family line, and they will minister before my anointed one always. Any one left in your family line will come and bow down before my priest for a piece of silver and a loaf of bread and beg to be appointed to some kind of priestly office just so he can have food to eat.
In chapter 3 verses 11 through 17 God confirms through Samuel the same thing he had the prophet say to Eli. He told Samuel how Eli’s sons would blaspheme him with Eli knowing about it and wouldn’t stop them. Eli’s reluctance to put an end to his son’s wickedness put him in a place of unity with his boys. He chose flesh over God. Samuel shared with Eli what God had said to him at Eli’s request. The word of wisdom that he had given to his sons was also applicable to him. “When you sin against God who will intercede for you?”
Back to chapter 4:
So, the soldiers send for the ark for the covenant so thing one and thing two, (Eli’s boys) goes with these men bearing the Ark of the Covenant. Still, no one has inquired of the Lord. The ark was brought into the camp and the soldiers went in. Oh, they celebrated. They danced, shouted, and made a big to do. Oh, they attracted the attention of the enemy. When the philistines found out that the Ark of the Covenant was in the camp oh, they got scared. They remembered the plagues God sent on Egypt when Pharaoh held God’s people hostage. Verse 9 of chapter four holds some encouragement for the Philistines, yet the bible does not say from whom these encouraging words were spoken. The word was, “Be strong Philistines, be men or you will be subject to the Hebrews as they have been to you. Be men and fight.”
Well…the Philistines fought with all their strength and might (possibly: there could have been some supernatural powers at work with them to bring the word of the Lord into fruition.) The Israelite’s were defeated. Israel lost thirty-thousand-foot soldiers that day; the Ark of the Covenant was captured, and Eli’s two boys were killed. A Benjamite (from the tribe of Benjamin) ran from the battle line to Shiloh and told what happened. The city went up in grief. When Eli heard the uproar, he wanted to know what was going on. The messenger found Eli sitting in a chair by the side of the road watching. He was worried about God (the Ark of the Covenant) being moved out of his place. Eli was old. He was 98 yrs old and blind. The messenger said “I have just come from the battle line, I ran, I deserted them this day. The Philistines kick our butts, your two boys are dead, and the Ark of the Covenant is gone.” When the messenger mentioned the Ark of the Covenant Eli fell backward off his chair by the side of the gate at the road and broke his neck. He died. He was old and heavy meaning fat. (He must have gotten fat from stealing God’s food.)
Eli’s daughter-in-law was pregnant and near her time to give birth. When she heard of the Ark of the Covenant being captured and both her father-in–law and her husband were dead she went into labor. She gave birth but was overcome by her labor pains and was dying. The mid-wives who were attending to her tried to comfort her by telling her how she’d given birth to a son. The daughter-in-law wasn’t comforted. Giving birth to a son didn’t move her. She named the boy Ichabod, saying “The Glory has departed from Israel. God was away from home for 20 yrs and wreaked havoc everywhere he went. Why didn’t anyone go looking for God? Why didn’t his people go look for God? (I hear you George…. purpose.)
Bringing it home:
Going back to the opening of our discourse: the path that the Holy Spirit is leading us on calls for Wisdom, discerning of Spirits and guarding the presence of God. Jesus said except you put your priorities in check you cannot be my disciples. Eli’s priorities were not straight; his son’s priorities were not straight which caused God to reject them. When undertaking the call extended to us the first thing to jump off and at us is distractions. When we give our attention to those distractions, we pretty much begin to abandon the presence of God and become engrossed in our distractions. This will lead to us having a deaf ear many times to the Spirit of God and his unction or pull to bring us back into the presence of God. I know…. but life. Yes, life can deal some lemons, ripe and spoiled. Regardless the condition of the lemon the Holy Spirit is here to help us, to guide of with his wisdoms and keep our paths always in the presence of God. Some think of me as not understanding that there are other things in this life than a full dedication to God. Some say we have wives, children, family, jobs, and a desire for recreational activities. Trust me I do understand. Desire holds the highest rank in hanging out with God. Love developed for God holds the next rank. Though some will not agree with me whole heartily I must bring clarity to what I just said. In the physical there can be desire without love. One can desire to be with a man or woman without loving them but loving his or her own desire. When there is a desire to know God and that desire is sought to be fulfilled, it will eventually give way to love only if there is consistency in fulfilling a continuous desire. When we were first introduced to the Lord there was no great love if any love at all for him or his ways. A persistent pursuit of him caused love to develop and many to most of us have been in pursuit of him ever since love developed. In our reading of 1 Samuel, we can see that both Eli and his sons had lost that loving feeling. Their attentions and dedications to God in spirit, mind, and body were directed elsewhere. Sure, they went through the motions, the traditions or ways of the priesthood but their hearts were far from the Lord. These priests were so far gone that they didn’t realize they’d been rejected. Perhaps they thought that their position or titles warranted the good graces of God regardless of their lifestyle, regardless of their negligence of His righteousness, regardless of their unfaithfulness. The wickedness committed during their time of serving said to God, “We think you are a joke.” If only we would discern what our actions say to the Lord and about the Lord.