When John the Baptist came on the scene encouraging people to repent of their sins and be baptized he was like a throw-back to the prophets of old. The people of Israel had not seen a prophet like John in over 400 years, and suddenly there he was preaching repentance with baptism and announcing that “someone” was coming whose sandals he was unworthy to untie (John 1:27). Servants would untie the sandals of anyone entering a home, to wash their feet of dust. John placed himself lower than a servant and yet every one of the four Gospels begins their account of Jesus’ life with John’s testimony. Jesus said of him, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11, NKJV).
What was Jesus really like? How different were His teachings compared to that of His disciples? If we only used the four Gospels as our example to follow the Lord, would they be enough? For the next little while, we will look closely at Jesus’ sermons, His interactions with people, His take on the Scriptures and His views of the society and culture of His day. How He related to the people, politics, and issues in His world, plays a huge part in how we relate to them, as His followers, in our world.
To be a disciple of Jesus means “to follow Him.” But what does that look like for the 21st century Christian? Where does one start in not only following Jesus but in knowing Him? We start with an eye-witness to His life, death, and resurrection – the Apostle John.
One tends to think of the gifts of serving as menial tasks in the church that no one wants to do. Nothing could be further from the truth. These gifts keep the church running at maximum efficiency. So what are the differences between the gift of helps, hospitality, administration and serving? Are they individual gifts or were the writers of the New Testament using different words, but talking about the same thing? Let’s look at the verses where these words are mentioned and figure things out from there.
The first time I became confused about the gift of tongues I had just finished singing at a Pentecostal church, where I had spent an hour giving a concert, praising Jesus and I thought, encouraging other Christians in their faith. When I finished my concert and was talking to people afterwards the pastor of the church approached me and asked me if I spoke in tongues. I told him I did not. He then patted me on the back in a conciliatory way and said, “Don’t worry Sister, some day you’ll be saved!” I had been a Christian (or so I thought) for some years. But this man made me doubt my salvation. I believed in Jesus, and I loved Him. I served Him with my whole being, using the singing voice God gave me to minister in coffee houses, in homeless shelters and in churches, where I encouraged people to follow Jesus. If I wasn’t a Christian, what was I? Thus, began my long and confusing journey into the world of tongues.
Everyone has a certain level of discernment. Some might call it intuition, or their “Spidey sense”, whatever you want to call it, we all have it. But, the spiritual gift of discernment is somewhat different. As 1 Corinthians 12:10 clearly says, it is the ability to discern or distinguish “spirits”.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues (1 Corinthians 12:10, NKJV).
I have personally experienced three miracles in my lifetime. Two miracles are named Andrew and Sarah, my children. Their births were not without incident. With Sarah, I was ordered to bed for the first three months of my pregnancy because my doctor thought I was going to lose her. I was also ordered to bed for the last three months because I developed toxaemia. After twenty-four hours of labour, I had Sarah by emergency C-section, because the doctors thought I was going to have a heart attack. It was a miracle she survived and came out of me with all the necessary parts. It was a miracle I survived! My son’s birth was also not without incident. In my sixth month, I fell and slipped on some ice and developed Placenta Previa (where the placenta tears away from the uterine wall). Once again I was ordered to bed for fear I would lose my baby and once again I had another C-section. The only harm to Andrew was that he was jaundiced at birth. Yes, it was a miracle they both survived and it was a miracle I did too!
Does the spiritual gift of healing still exist today? Or is it, as some people claim, no longer available because “only the Apostles” had it? I remember once, after my mother had a stroke, praying that she would be healed and not die. She could not speak or walk. She had lost the complete use of anything on her left side. Things did not look good. So I put a call out for prayer that night and trusted God would do what was best. To my surprise He did more than that. The next morning when I went into the hospital, my mother was sitting up in bed reading the paper and talking normally. She had even regained movement on her left side and had been out of bed walking! You could have knocked me over with a feather. I was stunned. So were her doctors. That’s the power of prayer, but it is also the gift of healing in action.
What is the Gift of Faith? Doesn’t every Christian have this gift? Isn’t it a kind of pre-requisite for belief in God? And how do you explain faith to someone who doesn’t believe? What does God say? He says that we wouldn’t even have faith in Him at all, if it wasn’t for His gift of grace to us in the first place!
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
How astounding! I can’t even wrap my head around that one. It was God’s grace that saved me through “faith”, yet it would seem from the verse above that even my faith was a gift from God. I don’t know about you, but that kind of blows my mind.
What is the difference between the Word of Wisdom and the Word of Knowledge? There is much confusion and debate about what these words mean, so it may be better to approach this from a different angle – what these gifts are not and how some Christians today are coming dangerously close to ignoring Scripture because of their misuse of these two gifts.
Mercy is described in Vine’s Expository Dictionary as “showing kindness, by beneficence, or assistance”, and is translated as “having compassion”. In general, it is to sympathize or empathize with the misery of another, so much so that you feel compelled to act. If not for mercy, you and I would still be lost. Jesus would not have died a gruesome death in order to redeem sinners from eternal suffering. It is mercy that drove Jesus to the cross and it is mercy that all Christians are to extend to others.
Mercy sort of sounds like grace, doesn’t it? But there is a distinction. Mercy is God not punishing us for our sins as we rightly deserve. Grace, is God loving us and blessing us even though we are sinners. Ephesians 2:8 tells us clearly, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves – it is the gift of God.” Mercy is deliverance from judgment. Grace is unmerited favour. The two often go hand in hand.