Empowered to Serve

Last week I wrote a blog about the reality of God’s Kingdom touching earth through miraculous deeds, and the fact that the Bible testifies that those things continue in the church today.

Knowing many people who read my blog personally, I know that the “charismatic,” “continuationist” viewpoint is one that some do not agree with, or still have questions about, and I hope to continue to handle this topic tactfully, in order to not offend those people.

As I began pursuing the gifts of the Holy Spirit a few years ago while attending an independent Baptist college where the common believe was that the gifts have ceased, it seemed like such an overwhelming issue and there were many questions in my mind as to how the gifts should be incorporated into church and life. Because those around me did not believe the gifts continue, I didn’t have anyone to turn to to find the answers I was seeking.

On top of that, I saw many charismatic leaders on Christian television who, it seemed, used the gifts as a way of making a name for themselves, and to gain status in the world. I knew there was something wrong with this, and it served to add to the ammunition of those opposed to my beliefs.

It didn’t take more than a look at 1 Corinthians 12-14 to tell me that the basis for using the gifts is love, but the other day as I was reading in Matthew, another passage caught my attention that I believe it speaks to this issue as well, and I want to share it here:

Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to (Jesus) with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” Jesus answered, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?” They said to him, “We are able.” He said to them, “You will drink my cup, but to sit at my right hand and at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by my Father.” And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:20-28)

These disciples, who had walked with Jesus for a while by this point, who had been given authority to heal and cast out demons, and who were to some degree were helping to lead the masses following Jesus around, now come to Jesus and completely miss the point of the mission of God. They miss the mandate to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth (Matthew 6:10), and instead, come looking for more authority that would come to them by having the seat of power next to Christ when the Kingdom is fully come.

Jesus calls them on it. He goes into this teaching that seeking power for oneself is a trait inherent in establishing an earthly throne, but that this is not how things work in God’s Kingdom. Instead, the power of the Kingdom is given most to those not seeking power itself, but who are instead seeking to serve others from a selfless, compassionate heart, just like His own. He even uses himself as the  example, as He had been telling the disciples that He was on His way to Jerusalem to die for the sins of His people.

Now, the reality is that people can use God-given authority and power from a sinful, self-serving heart and still see the power work. Jesus said that on the day of judgement “many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:22-23)

However, for those believers who are legitimately seeking God’s power for the purpose of transforming their world into a Kingdom culture – “on earth as it is in Heaven” – then Jesus says, these people will be the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.

From this truth, to those reading who are seeking how the gifts are to be used, allow me give you some very simple scriptural advice for this pursuit:

  • Make sure your heart and mind are working from a position of Christ-likeness. “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” (Philippians 2:1-5)
  • Don’t seek a logical answer to mysteries of faith. Just go after God to do something  miraculous, and watch Him work. “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts…”(1 Corinthians 14:1)

When we are acting out of the love of God, with a mind to serve others and bring God’s Kingdom to earth, the Holy Spirt will be there to empower us and to see us through. It really is this simple, as long as we don’t let our systems of theology get too deep for our faith to handle.