The Gift of Tongues as a Glorious Display of the Gospel (Part 4)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Part Four: Faith

It wasn't too many years ago that I recall my youngest child, Kirk (now seven), huddled under a homemade blanket fort with his biggest brother, Harrison. There was whispering. And more whispering. But I couldn't quite make out what they were saying, as I tried to do a little parental eavesdropping. Eventually, Kirk emerged, put his hands on his hips, standing there in his underwear with a cape wrapped around his neck, and began to say repeat some strange mantra about being a superhero. It was absolutely hilarious! Sherri and I looked at each other wondering, "where in the world did he hear that?!"

A pattern of very funny, witty, laugh-til-you-cry moments and statements have followed those days that leave my wife and I in the same side-splitting condition, laughing til it hurts. But it didn't take long to figure out that it had a source. Big brother.

Harrison, five months away from being fourteen now, knew the power of comedy in team work. He knew little Kirk had the personality to make us laugh. All it took was the feeding of a few words, phrases, or ideas into his little wired brain, and there was a recipe for an overload of mirth and enjoyment.

Those days are beginning to wane now. We miss them a lot. But the memories serve as a wonderful illustration of the gift of tongues. You see, I believe the gift of tongues requires three things that flow from the gospel and the work it produces in the life of a Christian: the faith of a little child, the absence of inhibitions, and some coaching. Let me try to explain.

Child-Like Faith

Jesus was pretty clear about what kind of mindset you've got to have to follow Him and be a Christian. He told the disciples in Matthew 18:2-6,

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, "I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. "And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me. But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large millstone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. (NLT)
Mark records another conversation similar to this one.

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it." Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. (Mark 10:13-16, NLT).

I love these passages! And I think that it is to the detriment of my 21st century, westernized, American mindset of intellectualism that I have lost a sense of what this means. I tend to make things too hard, too complex, too complicated, too difficult...all unintentionally, of course. This spills over into my walk with Jesus. And most believers I've talked to about this subject of child-like faith would say the same as well. Oh, that it would be as easy to follow Jesus as it would have been if I were prepubescent!

There's such a gentle, pliable, moldable mind when as a child. The world is new. The brain is ever learning, putting things together, reasoning, figuring things out. Curiosity is normal and abounds more than the average parent would like (since most of us can't remember that far back so as to have a little more patience, perhaps!). The world is a wonderful, exciting, brilliant place for a kid.

Jesus took children in His arms to bless them and use them as an example of what it mean to come to Him. You see, people were making it hard and complex to follow Jesus even in those days! That's just what the Pharisees and religious leaders of Jesus' day were doing...."They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger" (Matt. 23:4, ESV).

Coming to Jesus as a little child means coming to Him in simple faith and trust, believing what you hear Jesus promise, doing what you hear Jesus say, going where you hear Jesus go, saying what you hear Jesus say. It's all so simple. A child seeks to please his parents, and a child-like Christian seeks to please His Lord. A child seeks to imitate his parents, and a child-like Christian seeks to imitate Christ. We've made it so hard. But the gospel is so easy to grasp, and Jesus' burden is so light to carry. Let the weary come to Jesus just like children come to momma's lap when they are tired. The gospel is simple!

The gift of tongues is part of the package of the gospel. That doesn't necessarily mean that if you're saved you've got the gift. Paul made it clear in 1 Corinthians 12:30 through a rhetorical question that not all speak in tongues. But what about those who do? And what about those who want to?

Well, if the gift of tongues is part of the package of the gospel (as indicated in earlier posts on this subject), then receiving the gift of tongues and practicing it is much like receiving and practicing the gospel. Both are done through child-like faith.

We receive Jesus with a simple faith and trust, and we speak in tongues with a simple faith and trust...speaking what the Spirit utters in us and through us, in some ways like my oldest used to do through my youngest. There's a simple faith and trust that doesn't have to understand or process intellectually what's going on, but just to follow and do as you're told to by the Holy Spirit. I believe that's inherent in a child-like faith which Christians must return to in order to enjoy all the beauties and rest Jesus offers to those with such a mindset, including the gift of tongues

If adults make things hard, they make the gospel hard, and they make tongues hard also. Tongues flows out of the gospel of grace, because it is a grace-gift from the Father to encourage and build up His children. Tongues is rooted in the gospel because it is used by the Spirit to confront unbelievers and in some ways serve to prepare their hearts to come to Jesus. My point is that the gift must be kept simple in our understanding…a gift received and used in child-like faith.

Seriously, I've met some brothers and sisters who want a linguistic analyst present during a tongues speaking moment so they can record what's being said, run it through their audio linguistic library, compare samplings, and determine whether or not what they are hearing is a real language, and if so which language or dialect is it. Then and only then will they be prepared to give their official conclusion as to whether or not the tongue is a real language.

Come on! I realize that there are many, many counterfeits out there, all spawned by Satan at some point to confuse saints. Mix the bad with the good and who can tell the difference when it all sounds similar! And I could cite some interesting facts to balance the scales.

According to
Ethnologue, for example, there are currently 6,912 living languages, defined as languages that people speak today. This same catalogue also distinguishes about 39,491 alternate language names and dialects. Interestingly, the part of the world with the highest level of linguistic diversity is Papua New Guinea. The region has approximately 830 languages for around 5.4 million people. That's about one language for every 6,500 residents. Ethnologue also reports a total of 238 languages in the United States, 162 of which are "living."

Isn’t it more than possible…perhaps probable…that a Christian, operating in child-like faith, filled with the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues, is speaking one of these 6,912 living languages people speak today?

But a child trusts implicitly, doesn't he? Can he be fooled! Of course! But isn't there also an innate sense of what you can trust and what you can't? And when Jesus has captured a child's heart and mind through the Spirit, there's an anointing work that begins to teach a child what is right and wrong, and build supernatural discernment in them (
1 John 2:20, 27). A child doesn't care about analyzing linguistic samples. They just want to talk!

And a child-like Christian doesn't worry about that either...they just want to talk in tongues! Why? Because they believe that what they are receiving is from the Holy Spirit. They implicitly trust that what they are saying is from the Holy Spirit.

The Lack of Inhibitions

This leads to the second thing I recall in those humorous encounters with two of my boys a while back. There's this inherent lack of inhibition operating in their minds. My little Kirk wasn't scared at all to jump out from that blanket fort in his superhero underwear. (Incidently, when I asked my oldest years ago why he used to do the same thing, I'll never forget his response..."Dad, all superheroes wear their underwear on the outside of their pants!") Zero inhibition! Even running around the underwear...wearing dish washing gloves...and swimming goggles to serve as a mask to hide the secret identity. It's all rooted in a lack of inhibition. They were just having fun and that was all it was about.

Too many Christians have too many inhibitions. They are built slowly over time, almost always out of fear, gathered in our journeying through our various cultures and backgrounds. People are scared, mostly of what others will think of them. Or they're scared they might get something wrong...or that they'll make somebody mad. Inhibitions seems to be rooted in the fear of man.

I believe that many inhibitions are also rooted in a lack of understanding who we are in Jesus Christ. He is our measuring stick....not someone else....not even the most incredible super-Christian we've ever met or seen or heard. What the Father thinks about us is all we need to worry about. He sees us like Jesus. And as sons and daughters of Jesus, we're more than conquerors! We are invincible ultimately! We are spiritual superheroes and heroines!

The Christian who knows beyond a shadow of a doubt who they really are in Jesus cannot be held back. They do things that other people think are crazy, laughable, stupid, ridiculous, unwise, shameful, ignorant, and foolish. But that doesn't stop them. Oh for child-like faith! It knows no inhibitions!

As Christians we're gonna have to work a little harder at finding and getting rid of our inhibitions. Start by drinking deeply at the well of Scripture, reading who God says you are in Jesus, what you've been given in Jesus, what will happen to you because you are in Jesus, what God has promised to do for you in Jesus. Then, start shedding the inhibitions you notice that seem to hold you back from being who you really want to be. When this happens, not only will speaking in tongues be no problem for you, but nothing else will be too.

Oh sure, you'll appear to be foolish...much like the pompous adult who looks down their nose at the silly little child. "Oh, my! They’re so cute and silly. Now shoo! Go away little child and play!" she snorts. Sort of like the disciples shooing away the children from Jesus, eh?

But Jesus welcomes the child, picks her up, blesses her, and uses her as an example. Of what? Of a lack of inhibition in coming to Jesus regardless of what others think! They see Jesus and know instinctively that He's a good God who loves them and wants to bless them. So they run toward Him.

I'm advocating here that this mindset, when it controls us, will free us from all that prevents us from speaking in tongues, where God has so gifted. We will see Jesus and Jesus alone, and in an overwhelming desire to glorify Him and see Him more, our hearts will surrender our minds to the control of the Spirit in such a way that He begins speaking to us and through us in languages and sounds and words and phrases and concepts that are all very confusing to Him...but are very upbuilding for the saints around.

A Little Coaching

Finally, my memories of earlier years remind me also of the coaching that went on. My oldest, coaching my youngest, bringing him back into the blanket fort to tell him other things to do that would make Sherri and I laugh. On and on it went in order to please us and humor us!

The Spirit operates in this way, it seems, in the gift of tongues. He's already living within us. He's already guiding us into all truth, teaching us and reminding us of what we learn from Jesus in the Scriptures. He's interceding for us, praying for us when we don't know how to pray as we should (typical of most children, right?). And He speaks through us with tongues of men (and angels?).

I know for me personally, when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit, I was praying with my eyes closed. And there was this sort of marquee that ran along the bottom of whatever I was seeing, with English letters spelling things I didn’t understand...but I spoke them anyway! God knows what they are!

It still happens pretty much the same way for me today. It will just sort of trigger sometimes, usually while I’m praying, and sometimes then when I’m in corporate praise and worship on Sunday mornings. Though some would accuse me of being too childish in these things, I'm child-like enough in my faith that I truly believe the Spirit is doing that in me and to me, and that He wants me to speak what I see, saying it out loud, for all to hear, fearing no man, speaking things mysterious to me...because I trust Jesus.

That’s how the Spirit coaches me personally in the gift of tongues. He does it differently in Christians, some who speak in tongues only once…and some who can speak at will. I don’t claim to understand it all, cause I can’t! But the Spirit is there…seemingly coaching me and other believers, to speak the praises of Jesus Christ…much like He coaches me in remembering the Scripture I’ve memorized and meditated over (
John 14:26)…much like He coaches me through guiding me into all truth (John 16:13)…much like He coaches me in praying on all occasions (Eph. 6:18).


The child-like faith required to come to Jesus is a gospel-driven, child-like faith. It simply believes in a simple message. That simple belief in a simple message produces more simple faith to speak what we believe we are being told to speak. And the simple message produces simple faith to believe what the Father has said about me and who I am in Jesus, so that it doesn't matter what people think about me. I'm secure in His love, and therefore secure in His working...especially through the gift of tongues.

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