Not very long ago, I sat in on a Bible study during which the leader told the group the so-called "sign gifts" of Pentecost are no longer in operation today.
I grew up in a tradition where people believed this, and I worship now in a tradition where some believe this and the thought continues to disturb me because no one has ever given what I consider a satisfactory explanation for denying the operation of these gifts.
Are we presumptuous to assume we can know or understand why these gifts were given? Are we presumptuous to assume we can say when God will or will not present these gifts to us? Are we disobedient when we reject them because someone told us we could?
Do we not understand that many Christians in 2012 live in situations quite similar to first century believers? Many live in areas where there are no established churches or religous broadcasts. Many today live without scriptures in their languages (or unable to read those that are published), many live in hostile surroundings where they cannot obtain devotional books or study Bibles. Many live around people who are willingly or unknowingly ignorant of what the New Testament teaches. Some of these believers are in what we in North America might call "remote" areas (what a horrible phrase), but some of these believers live in large, urban areas of North America and Western Europe.
What are these gifts of Pentecost? What are these gifts of the Holy Spirit?
How can we believe the world does not need visible, tangible proof of God's total power over time, space, nature, and matter?
The gifts are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discerning of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues, helps, administration.
Who honestly believes the church and the world do not need these expressions of God's power? Have we substituted reading books and listening to speakers for the discerning of spirits? Have we substituted vitamins and pills for the gift of healing? Have we substituted self-help seminars for the gift of faith? Have we completely forgotten about the gift of helps? Are we embarassed to speak in tongues because we know those who have faked and forgered this gift? Does prophecy appear unsophisticated and uneducated?
Is the church as weak as it is because we have rejected these means of Jesus Christ showing Himself to be powerful and all-powerful in our time? Can we even imagine how powerful (and this does not mean rich, prestigous, and envied) the church would be if these gifts were accepted and embraced and honestly, faithfully demonstrated?
Are we trying too much to be like the world? Are we ashamed to affirm that God moves through us in ways we do not always completely understand and cannot always plan for and anticipate?
"To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues." (1 Corinthians 12: 8 - 10, NIV)
Why are we arrogant enough to say this is not true for those of us living today? What is the remedy for this?
We are gifted for worship and service, not for fame and fortune. I have no doubt people operating in these gifts live in and around me and I see them daily. They are humble enough to share God's gifts without holding a meeting and charging admission (or asking for a donation), without telling everyone how "blessed and highly favored" they are, and are obedient enough to say: "Have Your way with and in me, Lord."
They are living the true life of worship and service, the true life after Pentecost.