Enthusiasm Vs. Ecstasy
Most of my life, I didn’t really know my Grandma who lived in California. It was hard to as a young child living so far away to really know my grandma. Even as I got older, because of the already distant relationship it has been difficult to really know her. I do remember her gifts however. My grandparents won the lottery in 1984 and were millionaires. She always gave the best gifts. When we would go visit, we always looked forward to the gifts she would give us. I know I didn’t even really think about her- but the gifts she’d give me. My focus was on getting the big-ticket items I always wanted but couldn’t get from my parents. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized the flaw of my youth. I had wasted precious time enjoying the gifts and completely forgetting the giver. I no longer seek her gifts. I try to seek her for who she is, but in her old age this has been tough as well. It’s hard for me to admit, but I missed the best years of my grandma’s life seeking after what she could give me, rather than seeking her for herself. She is my last living relative and because of my youthful ecstasy of the gifts, I missed the enthusiasm of her life.
I’m afraid with many of the things God gives us, we tend to do the same to Him. We enjoy the things he’s given us and they end up becoming more important than Him. We may pray for a job, or a good grade in a class and once we get it, we stop praying. Like I was with my grandma, we are with God.
We don’t pray to know Him; we pray to get what we want. The believers in Corinth did this and many times we do as well. The gifts became more important than the Giver. The Corinthians were asking about the gifts and how they were doing in them. I believe in their arrogance, they wanted to be told they were the most gifted church on the block and that they should just keep doing what they were doing. However, Paul said: before we even discuss the gifts, know that: The gifts are not about the gifts, but about the Giver of those gifts! Paul answers their questions about the gifts by answering the question of- How can we seek the Giver and not the gifts? Paul goes right into the issue at hand. And gives the first answer to the question of seeking the giver and not the gifts. He states that they should
1.Embrace Education and not Ignorance (vs. 1)
The Corinthians it seems asked Paul about the gifts. As I said previously, my guess is that it was for the sake of being patted on the back and lauded as the church that “gets it”. They were not coming to the table asking questions necessarily for the sake of answers but more for a sense of being praised. In their arrogance they remained completely ignorant. They lost their teachability and Paul had to consistently beat down their over-inflated ideal of themselves. We can see that in the Corinthians lives as well as our own that. Ignorance is the child of arrogance. We become so arrogant in what we know, we actually become ignorant. Paul then sarcastically stated: “I don’t want you to be uniformed” it could even be read, “I don’t want you to remain uninformed”. He is saying that unless they heed what he is about to say, they are uninformed about the issue they asked about. He doesn’t deny their experience in the Spiritual gifts. He doesn’t say the way in which they are manifesting is wrong even; he simply discusses theological understandings as well as spiritual discipline that they were simply lacking in. He lets them know: There is ignorance in this church and I desire to enlighten you. They needed to humble themselves to once again become teachable. They needed educated, but they also needed to submit to the education.
I think in our lives, we tend to do the same with God. We may have a sense that we know it, or we are good to go and don’t need any more instruction, but my friends we truly do need to remain teachable all throughout our lives. Without embracing constant education from the Spirit, mentors and the pastors over us, we will remain ignorant in many places of our lives.
I’m sure many of us in this room have differing opinions on the spiritual gifts. This causes us to think we know what we’re talking about when it comes to them. I implore you to prepare your heart to be challenged in the weeks to come because: We don’t always know what we think we know. Let us learn to love the Giver and not the gifts. Let us learn from the Source of Life and not pretend we’ve got this under wraps. Let me state too, that I FULLY BELIEVE that the gifts are for today. This whole series will be done with this thought process in mind. This has come to me by way of education and experience. I don’t pretend to know everything about the Spiritual gifts and so I too am on a learning curve with you, but I do know with conviction that they are for today. May we, in order to seek the giver, desire to be teachable and submit ourselves to His instructions so we do not remain ignorant. After Paul encourages them to be open to education in order to know the Giver, he then reminds them, and us that in order to seek the Giver, and not the gifts we ought to seek
2. Seek to be Led by His Words, not our Wants (vs. 2)
In this verse, Paul laid down the sarcastic smack down to the Corinthians, particularly those who came form Pagan backgrounds. He reminds them of how they were wrong before in following these dead and mute gods. They followed blindly gods that didn’t speak, live or interact with the people worshiping them. They couldn’t. In this too, he purposefully reminds them that the God they now worship is a God who speaks. The Lord is not mute, but delights in speaking to His children. These followers were doing whatever they wanted with the gifts, as they did when they worshiped the mute gods. They had no direction with their pagan gods, and so were allowed to indulge in their flesh. Here, they are not, God speaks and gives guidance and direction. Paul reminds them to heed His voice.
I think many times, we are like the Corinthians. We tend to use our gifts for our desires and wants and we do not heed his voice. For many years, I abused my gift of preaching as a means to becoming known. I was seeking my name to be known, and not God’s name. I dreamt of large crowds listening to me preach and became deeply desirous of these opportunities for my own recognition. God however, did not allow it until I began to change my wants to the Words He was speaking. I had to remain teachable and humble to see I was not doing for God.Whether it is a material gift from the Lord or a spiritual gift from Him, we can tend to do with it what we want and don’t even consider how He would desire us to use it.
When we listen to His voice, we can most effectively and properly use the Gifts he’s given us.
After Paul encourages them to be open to education in order to know the Giver, and after he reminded them, and us that in order to seek the Giver, and not the gifts we ought to seek His words, he then moves into another issue that must be dealt with in order to seek the Giver and not the gift. We are to
3. Choose Enthusiasm, not Ecstasy
Now, I know this point is a bit confusing, but bear with me in this, it will be fully explained. The Corinthian church was neglecting to glorify Christ with what was given them. Soards states: “The Corinthians were getting caught up in the thrill of the emotional experience, rather than seeking to glorify God.” The gift became so important, that they were completely cutting God out of the equation. They were so infatuated with themselves and their gifts that they began to think they were the originators of their gifts, rather than seeing them as gifts. This is why he stated: “…no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says: ‘Jesus is accursed’”. They may have a manifestation, but it becomes man made (and thus powerless) when the person manifesting the gift fails to glorify God in the gift. Don’t get me wrong, God can still use it, but it is no longer what it should be. This being caught up is ecstasy and not enthusiasm.
Let me be clear here too. God can manifest Himself any way he wants to. I have experienced Holy laughter, being slain in the Spirit and other such manifestations of the Spirit. I know many people doubt these to be genuine, but I know them to be, because it was for His glory. We cannot define what is and isn’t from God in such manifestations simply based on how it is expressed. We can however see if it is glorifying God or man. That is where we must look. We also must look within and see if we are using our gifts (spiritual or carnal) for our purposes or His. Are we getting caught up in the thrill?
Ecstasy is the effort to “stand outside” oneself to grasp onto a vital power that provides one with an extraordinary experience. Enthusiasm is the result of one’s being indwelt by the power of God so that one’s quality of experience is transformed.
So, in choosing enthusiasm we are essentially: Looking for God’s face and not His hands. We are not focusing on what God can give us, but seeking Him for Himself. This is why Paul stated: “…no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” It is genuine enthusiasm that affirms Christ’s lordship, but ecstasy that creates behavior contrary to the Lordship of Christ. The Spirit births confession that Jesus is Lord!
May we seek to be teachable and Hear His words, now our wants. May we be people who choose enthusiasm in the gifts and seek His Face, not His hands. As we go through the rest of this series, we will see how the Corinthians could be caught up in the gifts. God gives great gifts! They can be so amazing that we are tempted, to like the Corinthians, choose ecstasy and do what we want and praise ourselves. May this be the guideline through which we look at the gifts- seeking the Giver and not the gifts.