We are starting a series entitled We Are The Church, and we’re going to be focusing on who we are as the body of Christ, and what our purpose is. I don’t know about you, but for a long time, I went to church on Sunday as if it was something to check off of a list. I’d go, sit in the back (or the balcony at the church where I grew up), sang some songs, listened to the preacher preach, then jump out of my seat when church was over ready to go home. It wasn’t something I looked forward to, and outside of church, I barely ever opened my Bible. For many of us, that’s what life looks like. We show up, check it off our list, and go home. A lot of us don’t even give it a second thought after we leave.
This week’s message is entitled Connect to Spiritual Gifts. I used that word because I believe God doesn’t just want us to show up and church, check a box, be part of a statistic, and then go about our lives. God doesn’t call us to be invisible. He calls us to be original and He calls us to connect with Him and with each other. We are called to stand out, to be different, to point the way. Matthew 5:14-17 (ESV) says “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.”
Part of our originality is our spiritual gifts. Our message comes out of 1 Corinthians 12:1-11. To give some context, Paul is writing to the church in Corinth, which at the time was divided, and he is talking to them about spiritual gifts. Looking at verse 1-11 (NLT) “Now, dear brothers and sisters, regarding your question about the special abilities the Spirit gives us, I don’t want you to misunderstand this. You know that when you were still pagans, you were led astray and swept along in worshiping speechless idols. So I want you to know that no one speaking by the Spirit of God will curse Jesus, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit.” What Paul is saying to them is that, when they were pagans, they worshiped things other than God. 1 Corinthians 2:14 (NIV) says “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.” The same verse in the ESV translation replaces the word “foolishness” with the word “folly”. This brings me to my first point about spiritual gifts.
1. Spiritual Gifts Come From The Holy Spirit
Without Him, we cannot understand them. Have you ever had a conversation with someone about ghosts? How many of you believe in them? Did you know that, according to a Huffington Post survey, 18% of people in America claim to have seen a ghost. The number of people who believe in them is more than double that. If you’re one of the 18% of people in the country who claim to have seen one, I challenge you to explain your story to someone. It’s very likely that they wouldn’t understand it. That’s very much the way spiritual gifts are to anyone who is not a believer. It doesn’t make any sense to them. It’s like sharing a story about seeing a ghost. They may nod their head, smile, maybe even say “Cool story, bro”, but they will walk away thinking you’re crazy. Our spiritual gifts are very much the same. The Hebrew word for spiritual gift is “pneumatika”, mean “spiritual, or things of the spirit,” and if someone doesn’t have a relationship with Christ, then his gifts won’t make any sense to them.
Getting back to the text, v. 4-6 says “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all. There are different kinds of service, but we serve the same Lord. God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” This brings me to my second point.
2. God Does Not Give Everyone The Same Gift
Have you ever watched the show Shark Tank? I’m not ashamed to say it’s a bit of an obsession in my house. I watch it almost every time it’s on, and if I can’t, I record it to watch later. If you’ve never seen it, the basic premise is that people come in pitching a product or company to a group of investors (sharks) in hopes of having the sharks invest in their company in exchange for money. I’ve seen a lot of products on there, but there aren’t many products on there that are the same. We all have different areas of expertise, and we all have different abilities. For those of us who are in Christ, we’ve been given those abilities to bring people closer to Christ. That is our purpose. Not everyone has the same gift, and no one person has ALL the gifts. Some of us are great worship leaders and musicians, some are great communicators, some are great at organization, and others are given a heart to work with children or the elderly. Ephesians 4:11-16 (ESV) says “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds, and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” Paul really liked long sentences, didn’t he? He is telling us that we, as Christians, should always be maturing. We don’t get to be Peter Pan flying around Neverland. The gifts we’re given, when we are good stewards of them, help to strengthen the body as a whole. We all have our own gifts to offer to help the body grow in strength and in maturity.
V. 7 says “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” I really like what Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church in California said that alludes to this verse, that “Your spiritual gifts were not given for your own benefit, but for the benefit of others, just as other people were given gifts for your benefit.”
3. You Cannot Earn Your Spiritual Gifts
Our gifts are just that. They’re gifts. There is nothing we can do to earn them, just like there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation. We don’t deserve them, but they were given to us anyway as an expression of God’s grace. Ephesians 4:7 (NLT) says “However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ.” Just as Jesus gave his life to pay for our sin, God has given each of us spiritual gifts, free of cost.
I find it amusing that the Greek translation for spiritual gifts is “charisms”, which is where we get our word charisma. The definition of the word is “an extraordinary power given a Christian by the Holy Spirit for the good of the church”. Someone who is charismatic is someone who has a certain energy in the way they walk, talk, and live their lives. That is what our gifts are. They are a power given to us by the Spirit to help us reach people for Christ, and point them to Him. V. 8-11 say “To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge. The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing. He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy. He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit. Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said. It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.”
4. We Do Not Get To Choose Our Gifts
Look at the last part of that last verse. It says “Just as HE determines.” We don’t get a say in it. Whatever your gift, God has a purpose for it. One commentary that I read put it this way. Our spiritual gift is not given to edify self, but profit the whole body of Christ. To not exercise your spiritual gift affects the whole body. Howard Hendricks said “If you don’t know what your gift is, and you’re not using it to serve the body of Christ, you are crippling your spiritual life.” About a year and a half ago, my grandpa had a stroke. Anyone who has ever dealt with this knows how hard it can be. A stroke happens when blood stops flowing to the brain. It can be fatal, but thankfully, it wasn’t in his case. In the months that followed, despite hours of therapy, he is still unable to use the right side of his body. Without the right side functioning properly, the left cannot do what it did before the stroke. It’s like going to the gym for a long period of time, and then not doing any physical exercise at all. It’s a strange concept, but that’s kind of what it’s like when we don’t use our spiritual gifts. We can’t grow muscles we don’t use.
Do you know what your spiritual gift is? There are several websites that offer a test you can take that will tell you what they are, but the one I’ve used before is http://www.spiritualgiftstest.com.
If you’re interested in knowing what your gifts may be, take a few minutes and take the test. When you’re done, print off the results, and take it with you to whatever church you’re a part of. Most churches will have a list of ways you can use your gifts to serve, whether it be directly in the church, as part of a mission, or maybe even as a ministry the church is affiliated with, such as homeless ministries, food pantries, shelters for abused women, or other things. Pastor Rick Warren says “If others don’t use their gifts, you get cheated, and if you don’t use your gifts, others get cheated”, so I would urge you to take the test, and see where you can get plugged in. It is a wonderful thing to serve the Lord, and to serve His people. In Matthew 25 (NIV), Jesus speaks of service by saying “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” We will discuss this text more next week.
This is what we are called to do, and we have each been given gifts that help us fulfill that commission. Find out what your gifts are, and find a way to get plugged in and use them. If you need any help in doing so, feel free to message us or comment and ask. Someone will always be here to listen, and to help point you in the right direction. If you are in need of prayer, send us a message with your prayer request, and we will respond in kind. We have been given such a great many gifts, so let’s thank God for that.
Father, we thank you that you have given us each unique gifts with which to serve you. We pray that your Spirit would fall upon us and show us not only what those gifts are, but how to use them to bring glory to your name. Lord, our desire is to know you better, and to help others to know you better as well, and we thank you for equipping us to do so. Please be with those in Florida as they continue to deal with the loss of loved ones. Lord, we don’t understand the hatred that has engulfed our world, but we know that the message you preached was love, and we have hope in the fact that evil does not win. May we use our gifts to show the world the love of your Son, Jesus. It’s in your Holy Name we pray.
This week, let’s dig into how to use our gifts to be a blessing to those around us, to bring glory to God, and to point others to Him. Have a great week, and God bless!!!!!