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Imagine entering a filthy room in the dark. Light a small match, and you notice that there is some overturned furniture. Turn on a flashlight, and you also see piles of dirty clothes. Use a halogen bulb, and you can see the dust settled on the furniture and mildew around the baseboards. Continue Reading…

With the release of my new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, I have gotten a lot more questions recently about blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, or the “unpardonable sin.” I deal with that in the book, but for those of you who didn’t choose the “expedited shipping” option and are still checking the mailbox every day for your copy, I thought I’d address it here as well. Continue Reading…

This weekend’s message, based on 1 Corinthians 14, was on the controversial topic of “tongues.” There are six conclusions I want our church to take away from that message.

1. Our worship services should be characterized by much more interaction with the Spirit (14:25–26).

True worship occurs when the people of God, the Word of God, and the Spirit of God converge. Too often we settle for two out of three—the people of God sitting and passively listening to the Word of God. We are so afraid of disorder that we essentially reduce church to a Bible podcast.

We need the living Spirit of God at work in our church services! When the Spirit of God moves in His people, then His Word truly comes alive in us. The power of God’s Word is unleashed to communicate His love to real people who are in real pain in real time. When this happens, His Word becomes not only truth about events 2,000 years ago, but comfort, insight, and wisdom for the present moment.

2. We should each come to church with something to give (14:26).

What makes for a Spirit-filled service? A great sermon? The “right” kind of music? No, a Spirit-filled service happens when the Spirit comes in with you. A truly Spirit-filled service can only happen when the people of God come prepared to share what the Spirit has put on their hearts.

3. We should not forbid speaking in tongues (14:39).

I do not believe it is wise or biblical for our denomination–as has often been the case–to forbid missionaries or leaders to speak to God in a private prayer language. To be clear, I do not have a private prayer language, nor do I think Paul encourages us toward one in this, or any, passage. While not encouraging anybody to speak in tongues, however, Paul stopped short of forbidding it. Thus, we should stop where he did. Therefore, we encourage people toward gifts that edify others, but do not forbid speaking in tongues.

In fact, “banning” tongues goes against the entire spirit of Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 14, not to mention being in nearly direct defiance of verse 39. If Paul had wanted to outlaw a prayer language, he would have done so.

God is not in heaven, wringing His hands and wishing that He had been clearer in His word. He left a lack of clarity on these issue on purpose, and He does not need us to fill in the gaps for Him. God said what He wanted to say, exactly the way he intended, with the ambiguities and limitations He desired.

4. Not all Christians speak in tongues (12:30).

I’m not sure how Paul could have been clearer on this one. Not all Christians speak in tongues. Those who claim that speaking in tongues is a necessary sign of the Spirit of God are in direct contradiction with the Word of God.

5. The primary purpose of tongues is to signify the spread of the gospel among non-Jewish people (14:21–22).

The primary purpose of tongues is not private prayer. They were not given to make you feel closer to God—for that you have the blood of Jesus!

As Paul says, tongues are a sign for unbelievers, particularly unbelieving Jews. This is why I approach a lot of cases of tongues with suspicion. When someone tells me that their private prayer time is filled with speaking in tongues, I always want to ask, “How many unbelieving Jews are present in your private prayer time?” The same is true for worship services where speaking in tongues is common. How many unbelieving Jews attend those services?

The spiritual gift of tongues was meant as a signal to the Jews that God is interested not only in them, but that He desires to save people from all tribes and all peoples and all languages. Tongues are a dramatic sign of the new non-Jewish frontier of the gospel.

6. Seeking tongues is not a sign of spiritual maturity; seeking gifts that serve and build up others is (14:19–20).

Paul does not forbid speaking in tongues, but he never tells us to seek that gift. In fact, he seems to set up so many restrictions around the practice of tongues that only a truly supernatural work of God could pass the test! On the other hand, Paul repeatedly tells us to seek gifts that build others up (12:31, 14:1, 12, 39). This is true spiritual maturity—not when we are swept away by ecstatic and unintelligible utterances, but when we interact with the Spirit and offer ourselves to be used by Him for the good of the church.