Spiritual Gifts Must Express Love

Though I have the gift of dream interpretation and have knowledge and understanding of what every symbol, color and metaphor in a dream means, but I don’t interpret dreams in a way that reflects the heart, nature and love of God, or is not consistent with the culture of the kingdom of heaven, my interpretation is empty. It is nothing.

I came up with this phrase sometime back when preparing the curriculum that is now The Language of Dreams Workshop I offer. (I’m in the stages of recording the video sessions that will allow me to also offer that workshop in form of an eCourse. So stay tuned for that!)

In teaching people about operating in the things of the Spirit and dreams / biblical dream interpretation, one of the most important things I focus on is giving them a “measurement stick” by which they can test all prophecy and all things prophetic.

Love is one of the primary standards by which the things of the Spirit must be tested.

If a prophetic word, or an interpretation of a dream or any form of spiritual activity, really, doesn’t reflect the love of God, His nature, and His good intent towards us and towards mankind, then we must take a step back, use caution, and ask God for discernment of how to proceed. This doesn’t mean the word, or the interpretation or the spiritual activity is coming from a “false” source necessarily. (Though it could be.) It could simply be that a level of immaturity is present and/or that love is not being held as the highest value. In that case, there’s some learning that needs to take place there.

Jesus said, “My words are Spirit, and they are Life.” (John 6:63) When God speaks, deep calls unto deep and our spirits come alive. When we see the Spirit in operation, there is comfort that we experience, there is edification (building up/strengthening of our spirits) and there’s exhortation (the empowering grace that moves us to respond in a positive way). In other words, there is always noticeable, good fruit that results from a word or an activity that truly comes from heaven. And this applies both on a personal, one-on-one level as well as corporately.

I remember when my family and I first moved to the Raleigh area. We began visiting some local churches and were particularly excited about visiting this one church I had researched online. They placed a great emphasis on the things of the Spirit, they had plenty of opportunities to get connected and serve, and they had a global focus. All of which are very important to me/us. We visited there for a few weeks and were really enjoying the worship, the atmosphere, and the teachings. However, I noticed something that was particularly painful for me. For all the freedom that was present in the worship services, there was no order. Various expressions of worship and response to the Holy Spirit were taking place – all at the same time.

Freedom in worship is a beautiful thing. I’ve seen it when it’s operating in a healthy way. But here, it was all taking place at the same time, and in a way that felt chaotic and in a way that was distracting.

“…Let all things be done for edification.” 1 Corinthians 14:26c NKJV

“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” 1 Corinthians 14:33 NKJV

“Let all things be done decently and in order.” 1 Corinthians 14:40 NKJV

My heart immediately began racing as I started thinking of all the people who were perhaps in that service, but had maybe never stepped into a church before and this was their first experience. Their first encounter with God. Their first impression of what “worship” is like. While I was very happy, on one hand, for my brothers and sisters to experience the freedom of uninhibited worship, I was deeply grieved that their freedom had been elevated above their love for others. Let me explain what I mean by that.

In our own personal space and time, uninhibited worship is a beautiful thing. We can dance, laugh, sing, run, prophecy, pray, operate in the gifts of the Spirit and as we worship God, we ourselves are edified. We are built up spiritually and strengthened.

When it comes to corporate worship, while it does still of course build us up and strengthen us, there is a measure of “setting ourselves aside” for the sake of the larger thing we are a part of. (Notice I said a “measure”.) This doesn’t mean we quench the Spirit or embrace a staunch rigidity to our worship. It doesn’t mean we become stiff and don’t engage. Not does it mean we become “religious” or take on an outward form that is inconsistent with our inner freedom. But it does mean that we understand that true freedom in the kingdom operates in a way that is considerate of others. Love must always be our highest standard (1 Corinthians 14:1). And sometimes, love will restrain itself for the sake of others.

If we are expressing our freedom(s) while being completely inconsiderate to others in the process, then quite frankly, we’re misusing our freedom and we are misrepresenting the One who gave us the freedom in the first place. In those cases, our freedom could actually be a stumbling block to others. (Paul goes into great detail of this in 1 Corinthians chapter 8 and 1 Corinthians 14.)

Now, were my brothers and sisters free to worship however they want? Yes. Of course. (So long as it’s in alignment with the culture of heaven and the ways of God.) However again, it was the context that’s important. This was a corporate setting, where we are clearly giving biblical guidelines in how we should to operate. If we were to zoom out, when The Church comes together in worship, it should be a beautiful, attractive picture of our love and intimacy with God. Not a place where we’re creating an atmosphere of chaos and confusion in the name of freedom.

Unfortunately, this is oftentimes why “the prophetic” or the things of the Spirit are seen in a negative light. People have experienced the chaos of unrestrained expressions or words that were not shared in love or in a way that represents the love of the Father and/or the culture of heaven. In some extreme cases, these activities have even caused harm or been hurtful. Where this is the case I trust that God will heal those hurts and that there will be a fresh revelation of the true nature and intent of the prophetic. And in the meantime, I shall focus on elevating love as the highest standard by which all things spiritual should be expressed and tested.

To you, my friends, brothers and sisters, I would say – don’t let this become a point of division for you. Know what is true and hold dearly to it. Understand and be patient with the process of growth that is taking place in all of us. And by no means, use the negative experiences as an opportunity to accuse, revile or tear down your brothers and sisters in Christ. Exhort one another in love that our Father in heaven may be glorified.

Thanks for reading,

Linda G. Riddle