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Faith Related Q and A

» My wife comes from a charismatic background. Nothing unusual came out on the subject while dating, but now I am getting some "surprises." She is starting to become negative on our liturgy and wants to see more "gifts of the Holy Spirit" again in church service, like tongue speaking, prophetic prayer and stuff like that. When I say I want to concentrate on what Jesus did for me, not gifts God has not promised to us, she gets pretty defensive. She has also claimed to have miraculously healed people through prayer on mission trips and that she has driven out demons on those same trips, so those gifts are still available to any who asks for them. Suffice it to say, this has become kind of an issue. Any advice on how to handle such claims? I am under the impression that I can't rule out her claims on healing and casting out demons because God could still actively do that stuff, if he so desired, but it is a bit of tricky subject.
The best course of action, of course, is for you and your wife to examine what the Bible does and does not say about spiritual gifts. If you have not studied and discussed together these sections of Scripture—Romans 12:1-8; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11-13; 1 Peter 4:10-11—it would be good for both of you to do that. When it comes to gifts of the Holy Spirit in biblical days and today, our church body makes these points in This We Believe, a statement of belief of our church body. “The Holy Spirit also equips the church with all the spiritual gifts it needs for its well-being (1 Corinthians 12:4-11). During the beginning of the New Testament era, special charismatic gifts were given to the church, such as signs, miracles, and speaking in tongues. These gifts were connected with the ministry of the apostles (2 Corinthians 12:12). There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.” God can do anything. As you noted, if God chooses to give a person special gifts, he can do so. The key statement in the section I passed along is the last sentence: “There is no evidence in Scripture that we today should expect the continuation of such charismatic gifts.” Our focus is best directed on the object of our faith, Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit’s greatest gift, given to all Christians, is the gift of saving faith (1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:8; 4:5).

» Some in our church say our pastor is preaching too much of the law and some feel as if they are being scolded. One of our council members said that if a new person attends one of our services, they won’t come back; it doesn’t make them feel good. I have talked to several of members and some don’t like the changes that our pastor has made, but they do enjoy his services and the energy he brings. My wife and I thoroughly enjoy his sermons. He has made us look deeper into our faith and to learn. I guess I don’t see how his style would upset or scare away anyone. Can too much law be preached? Is it a minister's job to make people “feel good”?
Part of the silent prayer I offer before preaching is that God would use me to “convict and comfort” the people who are on the receiving end of my sermon. I ask that God convict them and me through the preaching of the law and comfort us through the preaching of the gospel. Can too much law be preached? Yes, if there is little to no gospel content in a sermon. Is it a minister’s job to make people feel good? No. The minister’s job is to be faithful in preaching God’s word to people. God will take over after that. The person preaching the sermon cannot bring about reactions or feelings to his sermon. Pastors will look to have a balance of law and gospel in their preaching, with greater emphasis on the gospel message. The gospel is “good news.” There is certainly reason for joy and happiness when the good news is received in faith. The apostle Paul first gave these inspired words and instructions to Timothy, a young pastor: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:1-5). Those instructions are valuable for pastors of all ages. God’s law can be an unpopular message with people because it stirs up consciences and makes them feel uncomfortable. Regardless, pastors are to preach God’s law. God’s gospel can also be an unpopular message with people because they consider the idea of salvation through Jesus Christ alone an offensive, exclusive message. Regardless, pastors are to preach God’s gospel. The right kind of conversations about sermons in your church are the ones that take place between the members and the pastor. Do encourage your fellow members to have that kind of conversation.

» Are all sins equal to God? Like would stealing a package of gum be the same as murdering someone in God’s eyes?
Society and governments make distinctions when it comes to breaking established laws. In the Bible God makes it clear that the failure to keep his laws—in any way—is sin. Jesus said in the sermon on the mount, “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). And, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). The apostle John wrote: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). Thankfully, we have a loving Savior who has won forgiveness for the transgressions we commit in thought, word and deed, and for the sins we commit when we fail to do the good that God commands.