by Chris Ritter

As we wrap up this “Walking in the Spirt” message series, my prayer is that you have been encouraged and challenged to give constant attention to the Holy Spirit. I hope you to get in the habit of checking in with the Holy Spirit throughout your day until your whole life is a conversation with God. I hope the Holy Spirit has become more dear to you. David was called “a man after God’s own heart.” His love for God was more prominent than the crown on his head, but he also sinned royally, too. It was in one of these times that David is said to have penned Psalm 51. What did the great king pray?:

  • “Take not my kingdom from me.”
  • “Take not my family from me.”
  • “Take not my wealth from me.”
  • Take not my power from me.”
  • “Take not my health from me.”
  • “Take not my life from me.”?

No, he prayed: “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11). David was a wealthy, powerful man with a lot to lose. The thing he wanted to lose the least was God’s presence in his life.

As people of the New Testament, we have four commands related to the Holy Spirit. The first is to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 5:18 says, “Do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” Every Christian has the Holy Spirit, but not every Christian is filled with the Holy Spirit. The Greek verb Paul uses carries with it the notion of “go on being filled.” This is not a one-time occurrence, but a constant cry of our hearts. As we are filled with the Spirit, we allow the Spirit to have more control over our lives. I heard a preacher once say, “The Spirit is resident in each believer, but the Spirit is not president in every believer.” Let’s make him president of our lives.

Another injunction about the Spirit in found in Ephesians 4:30: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.” The Holy Spirit has a job that I would not enjoy: He follows me around 24/7 to lead me into God’s perfect will. How patient he must be! How long-suffering! When I choose my own way over God’s way, it grieves him. As I learn to walk in the Spirit, I bring him joy.

It was Jesus that warned against insulting or blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Those opposed to Jesus could not refute the fact that he healed the sick, miraculously fed the multitudes, and delivered those possessed of evil. In way of explanation they offered that he “cast out demons by Beelzebub, the prince of demons.” In Matthew 12 Jesus reminded them of something Abraham Lincoln would later remind our own nation: A house divided against itself cannot stand. Satan does not cast out Satan. God does. And he warned that all sins of that wicked generation could be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Holy Spirit would not be forgiven. When someone is so spiritually twisted that they cannot discern the work of God over and against the work of Satan, there is little hope for them. That is why Hebrews 10:29 warns us against “insulting the Spirit of Grace.”

There is one more instruction in the New Testament related to the Holy Spirit and this is the one we will spend the most time on today. It is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:

16 Rejoice always, 17 pray continually, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

23 May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Paul told the church at Thessolonica that they were not to “quench the Spirit.” What does that mean? To quench means to put out, like a flame. This tells us that the Spirit can be resisted. He does not move sovereignly in our lives, but invitationally. These instructions are written to a congregation and I have known many churches that seemed to have something of a “cold water committee.” Whenever the Spirit stirred hearts to start a new ministry, begin a new outreach, or grow a heart for evangelism, the cold water committee would get their buckets out: “We’ve never done it that way,” or “that is not in the budget.” I hope we get our our gasoline cans when sparks of the Holy Spirit show up.

Stephen preached to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7 and said bluntly, “You are always resisting the Holy Spirit.” I believe we can also quench the Holy Spirit by neglecting or ignoring the Spirit. It is sometimes my tendency to hit the snooze button when the Holy Spirit is trying to wake me up to new possibilities. That is what we talked about giving God a quick “yes” when he nudges us.

When we look at “quenching the Spirit’ in context, however, we see that Paul is talking specifically about neglecting or opposing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the creative force over all the universe. In the Nicene Creed we call him “the Lord, the giver of life.” Yet this Great Holy Spirit also is detailed enough to leave individual marks on each of us that are as unique as our own fingerprint. The Holy Spirit gives gifts to each believer.

What is a Spiritual Gift?

Spiritual gifts are distinct from natural talents and abilities, although they may be married to them. Spiritual gifts are ways God works through us to do the supernatural work of his Kingdom. I can preach to you. I might, every so often, preach a message that will make you say, “Amen!” But I cannot make a lasting change in anyone’s life with my words without the Holy Spirit being in operation. The natural gift must be subsumed by a spiritual gift.

Spiritual gifts are as controversial today as they were in the First Century church. 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 contains a lot of teaching and correction on the subject of the Spirit’s gifts.  Some, like tongues and prophesy, were occasions for differences of opinion and Paul was reminding the church that all things must be done in love and for mutual encouragement

The Greek word for gift is charism.  Christians who believe in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit are sometimes called Charismatics. Some churches are Cessationists…. meaning that they believe the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased after the days of the Apostles. Now that we have the Bible, they say, we do not need the supernatural manifestations.

Methodists have never been Cessationists.  John Wesley said that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are not seen as commonly today because have gotten lost amidst the clutter of the worldly church. There are churches, today, however, that place an extreme emphasis on manifestations of the Spirit but do not pay careful attention to their doctrine. Jesus never intended that his church be divided into the Spirit Camp and the Truth Camp. True worshippers must find the intersection of Spirit and Truth (John 4).

Some very sincere people may believe it is prideful to acknowledge they have a gift of the Holy Spirit. But this contradicts the clear teaching of scripture:

All these [spiritual gifts] are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

1 Corinthians 12:11 (emphasis added)

The Holy Spirit determines who gets the gifts. Every believer has at least one. If we have a gift, we are responsible for using it. These are not toys, but tools. Adrian Rogers used to say, “Spiritual gifts are not for your enjoyment, but for your employment.”

Living Sacrifices

I love the teaching in Romans 12 about spiritual gifts because it puts spiritual gifts in their proper context:

12 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.

Romans 12:1-8

To be used of God, we must make ourselves available to God. This is our voluntary act of worship… to be living sacrifices. The Salvation Army was founded by the British Methodist preacher William Booth and his wife, Catherine. Someone once asked Brother Booth the secret to his great effectiveness. This was his reply:

“I will tell you the secret: God has had all that there was of me. There have been men with greater brains than I, even with greater opportunities, but from the day I got the poor of London on my heart and caught a vision of what Jesus Christ could do with me and them, on that day I made up my mind that God should have all of William Booth there was. And if there is anything of power in the Salvation Army, it is because God has had all the adoration of my heart, all the power of my will, and all the influence of my life.

William Booth (emphasis added)

Verse two says that when we offer ourselves fully to God and renew our minds that we will be able to test and approve God’s will. One key to finding your spiritual gift is to step out and try something. It is almost impossible to steer a ship that is not moving. We must give God something to bless. We have to do something.

This is perhaps especially true for spiritual gifts that are more overtly supernatural… like prophecy. The gift of prophecy is when God speaks to someone a message for someone else. 1 Corinthians 14:3 says the prophecy is for “edification, exhortation, and comfort.” When God nudges you to speak on his behalf to someone, we don’t stand up and shout, “Thus saith the Lord…!” Only the Biblical authors could claim such inspiration.

No, we say gently, “This may be indigestion on my part, but I sense the Lord might want me to speak something to you. Please take it for what it is worth and see if your spirit bears witness with this.”

I bet the church at Thessolonica had a few people use the “Thus Saith the Lord” method and this turned some people off to spiritual gifts altogether. Paul said, “Don’t quench the Spirit. Don’t despise prophecy. Test these messages and hold on to the good ones.”

Differing Gifts

We don’t all the same gifts. This is the key teaching in 1 Corinthians 12-14. We together comprise the Body of Christ and, like individual body parts, we have different functions. This is to be celebrated, not a cause of division. God made us different so that he could make us all one.

My grandma was one of the most spirit-filled people I ever knew. I remember her brothers-in-law, my great uncles, coming for family dinners and telling her that if she was a real Christian she would speak in tongues. This troubled her. Now I would take my grandma’s walk of faith over a whole sackful of people like my uncles, well-meaning though they were. But they missed the central message of Paul’s teaching on spiritual gifts: We don’t all have the same gifts. Stop pretending you are better than everyone else. Do all things in love. We need each other.

There are different lists of spiritual gifts in scripture. They overlap, but none of them are identical. That means that none of them are intended to be exhaustive. The Holy Spirit has infinite variety.

We need all the gifts in operation for us to be an effective church. And there has never been a time with more opportunity. I do not know of one ministry area in our church that is fully staffed with volunteers. Let me take you through some of the gifts Paul mentions in Romans 12.

We have already mentioned prophecy. Not all gifts, like tongues and prophecy, are verbal. Some people thrive behind the scenes and worship God that way. All are called to serve, but some have the gift of service. They can build the kingdom by rolling up their sleeves. This gift is vital in both in-reach and outreach. Our church has around six families who are going through tremendous long-term struggles. Yvette Biddle, our Director of Discipleship, would love to pair people with a gift of service to be on a supportive team for these folks. Our Backpack Blessings ministry needs folks to hand out food on Fridays at three locations in our school district. Do you have the spiritual gift of service?

Paul mentions teaching. If you think you might have the spiritual gift of teaching, you should lead a Bible study, teach a Sunday School class, or volunteer as a youth leader. If you have the gift of encouragement, you should lead a Life Group, be on the Host Team, or invite friends to church.

All are called to give, but some people have the gift of giving. They see strategic needs and step in to fill them. It is a beautiful gift that makes such a difference in the church.

Paul says that if you have the gift of leading, you should lead diligently. You should start a new ministry, lead an outreach, or serve sacrificially to support someone else’s vision.

What if our church was led by leader, taught by teachers, and served by servants? What if all the givers were giving? What if every member was in ministry using their spiritual gifts to the glory of God’s kingdom?

You have at least one gift. You are responsible for using it. As a next step, you might consider taking this online spiritual gifts survey to see what your spiritual gifts might be. I challenge you to share your results with a Christian friend and ask them to hold you accountable for using your gift as a member of the Body of Christ.

A big part of walking in the Spirit is using the gifts the Holy Spirit has chosen for you. Quench not the Holy Spirit.