The Road of Tradition booklet

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The Road of Tradition

“Lord, I’m confused! After I attended that convention on Your Word last year I thought things were clear. I thought I understood, finally, about how to use Your Word to get the most out of life. But I don’t understand. It isn’t working for me.

“I’ve tried hard to make all the wonderful information Your great men of faith have taught a part of my life. I’ve read their books explaining Your Word, and listened to their tapes over and over... but I just can’t seem to get the results they do. Why?

“The things they taught haven’t made life easier to cope with, but rather more difficult. There is a heavy burden on my soul... as if I’m under a wet wool blanket on a hot summer day. I’m suffocating!

“I’m a regular mess on the inside, Lord! I’m so far from conforming to Your Word... maybe I should give up and go back to my old life. But I know that isn’t the answer, because Your aren’t there! Life has no meaning without You! I just don’t know why truth seems so difficult to grasp.”

Does this person’s predicament strike a note in your heart? Many of us have been down this road, or may be on it right now. It is a road that’s easy to travel, and we have to be on guard to keep off of it. This road is the road of traditions... new and old traditions... many of which are based on false teaching. Jesus contended with such traditions, and so must we.

Our enemy has not changed his nature since Jesus walked the earth. He twisted scripture to suit his purposes then; he does it now. Jesus got all over the scribes and Pharisees because they fell into the enemy’s trap and allowed tradition to make the Word of God of no effect.

We no longer use the term “scribes” for those whom God has called to bring understanding of His Word. We no longer have Pharisees. We now have apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. These are gifts Jesus has given to the Church to help bring us to perfection. And these are the ones with whom Jesus would contend today. It is in the midst of these whom Jesus gives to the Church that our enemy raises up his own counterfeits to water down the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Things are not always as they appear. Satan cannot win against God’s Word, so he perverts it. He builds a seemingly logical doctrine around scripture; then the church embraces it and builds upon this new tradition instead of upon what the Word of God actually says, thereby making the Word of no effect. His devices have not changed; he continues to find ways to corrupt the simplicity of the Gospel.

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is not difficult. If a teaching goes forth which is hard to understand or becomes a burden, bringing condemnation because no matter how we try, we can’t achieve what the teaching holds out, odds are we need to examine the teaching more closely.

Jesus says that what we learn from Him brings rest to our souls. What He teaches us is useful and easy to keep (Matthew 11:28-30). He will bring us to repentance and demand change in our character... but He will never oppress our souls or cause condemnation. He came to set free, not to oppress.

God’s Word puts an ax to our old life and brings us to the place where the character of Jesus is revealed to us. A major tactic of the enemy is to take our focus off the character of Jesus. Jesus’ character, and the fruit of the Holy Spirit, are compassion, love, patience, joy, mercy, gentleness, peace, belief, goodness and humility (Galatians 5:22,23; Colossians 3:12,13). When this fruit of the Holy Spirit becomes our character, we have our greatest spiritual weapon against darkness. Tradition based on a false teaching will try to draw us away from this, God’s desire, which is: Jesus seen in us.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). The scribes an Pharisees forgot this, and we must be careful or we will too. Jesus contended with them: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees [apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers], hypocrites! for you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy and faith: these ought you to have done, and not to leave the other undone” (Matthew 23:23).

Let’s look at a major doctrine of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement which has caused confusion and frustration for many believers: the Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Why is it that so many believers have been baptized in the Holy Spirit for 20 years or more and are still confused about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit? Many feel condemnation because they do not “flow in the gifts.” Not only do they fail to flow... they still don’t even understand!

We go to conventions and seminars on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and follow after this one and that one who “flow in the Gifts,” hoping maybe they will lay hands on us and we will start to flow also. We fast and pray. Still nothing. A burden of condemnation lays heavily upon us because we don’t measure up. Someone mentions fruit of the Spirit and we just want to shoo them away. “Let’s get the power first... worry about fruit later.”

We look for more and more teaching on the Gifts of the Holy Spirit so we can understand. Books! Tapes! Tracts! Sermons and more sermons. Yet most of us stay confused!!! Why? There is a simple reason.

Most teaching on “the Gifts of the Holy Spirit” as taught in the church today is not correct according to scripture. This doctrine is a good example of how the enemy takes the Word of God and makes a tradition out of part of it, so the truth will have no effect.

Let’s take a look at what scripture says.

Paul tells us we have many members in one body, and each member has one or more gifts. Romans 12 lists:

prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, giving, ruling, and mercy

These gifts are called charisma. They are spiritual abilities or talents given to us by God, and they reside within us. (Note that these are not natural abilities with which we are born, but rather they are given supernaturally as we grow and walk in our new life.) We are to daily present ourselves to God, allowing the Holy Spirit to work with us to develop our gifts, so that they become a part of our character... our very nature. With our charisma gifts we serve God, and we serve the Body of Christ... one another.

Jesus also give gifts to the Church. Ephesians 4 lists them as:

apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers

These are doma gifts. A doma gift is a person, a believer, who has been faithful to develop his or her charisma (spiritual abilities), and whom Jesus has personally selected to give as a present to build and instruct the Body of Christ.

Now we see that our Father God gives spiritual gifts, the charisma, which become our possessions. The Holy Spirit works with us to incorporate these gifts into our lives. He is not the one who gives them to us; He helps us with them. And out of the ranks of those who are faithful to develop their charisma, Jesus chooses those whom He will give to the Church as a doma gift.

Paul again speaks of the charisma gifts in I Corinthians 12. His comments are in keeping with Romans 12, where he points out that everyone is important and has a special part in the Body of Christ. No one is going to function just like the next person.

We see then, from scripture, that the charisma and doma gifts are spiritual gifts our Father God and Jesus have given to us to build the Kingdom of God.

Paul talks about the charisma gifts in I Corinthians 12:1-6, but in verse seven he stops talking about charisma gifts and begins talking about manifestations of the Holy Spirit. “BUT,” says Paul, “the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: but all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will.”

There are different charisma gifts, different administrations, and different operations of those gifts. Not everyone can function in every charisma gift; we each have our own place. BUT... no matter what your charisma gift is— no matter how you function in the body of Christ—the Holy Spirit will manifest Himself through you as you function in that gift which God gives you, when HE wants to.

The charisma gifts reside in man. However, a manifestation of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit revealing Himself to and through us in power... temporarily. He will give Himself, reveal Himself as He decides, through every one who is functioning in his charisma gift. Verse 11 says, “But all these work that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as He will” (I Corinthians 12:11).

In I Corinthians 12:7-11, where Paul lists the manifestations of the Holy Spirit, only verse 9 mentions charisma gifts. This verse says there are charisma gifts of healing. Since gifts of healing are listed under manifestations of the Holy Spirit, we need to understand that these different ways of healing also reside only in the Holy Spirit... they are given and revealed to and through us as He will, temporarily. In the Kingdom of God no person is a spiritual healer. It is the way of darkness to raise up people who have power in themselves to heal.

Only in one place does scripture speak of “gifts of the Holy Spirit,” and that is in Hebrew 2:3,4. “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard Him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to His own will?” This word translated “gifts” is merismos, which means distributions (of the Holy Spirit), very similar in meaning to the “dividing” of I Corinthians 12:11.

The Holy Spirit distributes Himself... manifesting or revealing Himself in power, confirming the Word of God with signs and wonders and miracles. We could say the manifestations of the Holy Spirit are gifts of the Holy Spirit in the sense that He gives Himself. But the merismos gifts are not available for man’s use as are the charisma gifts. They are given to confirm the Word of God, to show that God is real... always as a temporary flowing of power.

We each need to emphasize not the Holy Spirit revealing Himself in power temporarily through us, but rather the Holy Spirit dwelling within us constantly and developing within us His character so that our lives will consistently reveal Jesus. Spending all of our time trying to grasp something over which we have no control will not advance the Kingdom of God. If we keep our focus on the fruit of the Spirit... which is the part of His character that our Father God desires to become a part of us... we will most likely find the Holy Spirit moving through us in power also. The Holy Spirit manifested His power through Jesus consistently, but that was because Jesus walked continually in the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Our charisma gifts will function fully only as we walk in the Spirit, revealing His character consistently. We are to seek the best charisma gifts of God. We are never told to seek the manifestations or the distributions (merismos gifts) of the Holy Spirit; the Spirit of God will reveal Himself in power as He decides.

Tradition teaches us that the charisma gifts are gifts of the Holy Spirit, grouping together with them the doma gifts and manifestations of the Spirit. Most traditional teaching focuses on the manifestations of the Spirit, the power of God revealed, and teaches that we are to seek to operate in them.

This traditional approach, with its teaching on the “gifts of the Spirit,” separates the “fruit of the Spirit,” from the power of the Holy Spirit. In reality we cannot separate the power of the Holy Spirit from the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus didn’t. The Holy Spirit flowing through Jesus to bring healing and deliverance was a direct result of the character of the Holy Spirit permeating His life.

Scripture teaches us there are two classes of spiritual gifts which are given to us to develop in our lives in order to build the body of Christ: charisma gifts (Romans 12) from God and doma gifts (Ephesians 4) from Jesus. In contrast, the manifestations of the Holy Spirit (I Corinthians 12) are resident within the Holy Spirit only, and work together with the spiritual gifts. As He decides, His power is distributed through us temporarily as we function in the charisma and doma gifts which have been given to us. Paul shows this working in Romans 15 when he mentions that as he preaches... ministering the gospel of Christ as he functions in his charisma... mighty signs and wonders take place by the power of the Spirit of God.

As we look at Jesus, we see that fruit of the Spirit is imperative for the working and advancement of the Gospel. Jesus was moved with compassion (a character trait of the Holy Spirit—fruit of the Spirit), and people were healed. Without fruit of the Spirit, the charisma gifts won’t function correctly; consequently, the Holy Spirit will not be as quick to reveal Himself in His power. Scripture shows over and over our main focus needs to be the fruit of the Spirit, for then will we reveal the character of Jesus.

Our enemy is afraid for us to walk in the Spirit (fruit of the Spirit). It was when Jesus was moved by compassion that miracles flowed through his life. It will be the same for each of us.

The enemy takes the Word of God and changes our proper focus, and somehow he is successful in propagating teaching that doesn’t give all the facts. We hear it and believe it because someone of good reputation has said it. Then, as we read the Word, we build upon an incorrect foundation. We embrace the doctrine and it becomes tradition.

So often we may wonder why we can’t understand the Word, why it doesn’t work for us, and perhaps we feel condemned because we don’t measure up. We stay frustrated because we can’t seem to get a handle on what we are taught.

Or perhaps when we find out that what we believe and practice is not scriptural, we become fighting mad and refuse to give up on our tradition. Sometimes traditional belief becomes more important to us than scripture—it becomes holy to us.

We must learn to heed our spirits. Listen. If the teaching is heavy, if it just doesn’t feel right and troubles us, if it is difficult and confusing, if it brings condemnation... let’s pay attention and study the Word closely. Let’s not walk the road of tradition.

Jesus tells us, “...there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect” (Matthew 24:24). Paul admonishes us to “study to show yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (II Timothy 2:15).

The enemy will deceive the Body of Christ by mimicking the power of God. He will manifest power even as the Holy Spirit manifests power. If we take our focus off who God is and put it on what God does, we can be easily duped. The enemy can counterfeit power consistently, but he cannot consistently counterfeit a holy character.

Let us focus on the character of Jesus, allowing the fruit of the Holy Spirit to become our character, as we serve God and each other... and then watch as the Holy Spirit gives Himself by manifesting through us His power for our good.

Are there miracles, healings, words of knowledge and wisdom, prophecy and different kinds of tongues and interpretations of tongues, and supernatural faith? Are there also compassion and loves, patience, mercy, gentleness, joy, peace, belief, goodness, and humility flowing out of our lives to those all around, so that Jesus Christ becomes life to those who are hurting? The Holy Spirit reveals Himself and gives of Himself to make Jesus alive to the heart of the people. Everything focuses back on Jesus and His character in us.

The enemy focuses our minds away from “Jesus in us” to the manifestations being “in me.” Be on guard. Be careful of tradition. Let’s examine our beliefs, and if we hold traditions, let’s be certain they are scriptural.

© 1992 by RANAN! Publishers of Gospel Literature, a Ministry of New Life Church in Thayer, Missouri | Written by Joan M. Williams

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