Why did God give us spiritual gifts?

Now we continue with our spiritual gifts FAQ’s, this time, a big question! There are six main reasons God has given us spiritual gifts:

  1. To glorify Himself

God has given us gifts so that we might exalt His name, that we might do things that will glorify Him.

If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Peter 4:11

It is way too easy for us to get caught up in being busy or to build something up and forget that our purpose is to give glory to God.  When this happens, we sometimes get the idea that our ministry is ours and not His. The result is that we often come to resent anyone else becoming involved in it, and this is not how we make disciples, for making disciples always leads us to teach others to take our place!

  1. To build up the body of Christ

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,  to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up…

Ephesians 4:11-12

            Church is a team sport, and each one of us has a place and a gift.  Everyone needs to practice their gift, and to be in the Word and mature in their use of their gift. When each one uses his gift for the “team” then the team wins and others are brought into the Kingdom… if I might be permitted to use a sports analogy…and just like playing a sport, church ought to be fun.  There are certainly aspects of any area of service that may not be fun, but after the game is over, after we have done our part and the “team” is back in the locker room, there is nothing but joy when the team has won the game and new members have entered the Kingdom.

  1. To develop unity in the body of Christ

…until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

Ephesians 4:13

We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish as fools.

Dr. Martin Luther King

 

Diversity without unity makes about as much sense as dishing up flour, sugar, water, eggs, shortening and baking powder  onto a plate  and calling that a cake. They have to be put together in a way that makes sense to us.

William Pollard

 

  1. To develop maturity in the body of Christ

 

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.  Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ.

Ephesians 4:14-15

 

Maturity is the ability to stick with a job until it is finished. The ability to do a job without being supervised. The ability to carry money without spending it. The ability to bear an injustice without wanting to get even.

Dear Abbey

God is not as interested in your success as in your maturity

Fred Smith

 

  1. To grow the body of Christ

 

From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Ephesians 4:16

 

Did you catch  “…as each part does its work?” Not some of the parts, not some of the parts some of the time and not all of the parts some of the time.  All of the parts doing all of their work all of the time.

 

  1. For the common good of the body of Christ

 

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

1 Corinthians 12:7

 

This verse should settle most of the issues surrounding controversial gifts in our time, and it should settle most misunderstandings that we will face in this study.  We will be fierce in our determination to understand spiritual gifts in the context of “the common good.”

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Spiritual Gifts: FAQ’s

Good morning and welcome back! As I mentioned yesterday, we’ll begin with some questions that I’ve been asked frequently by students who desire to know more about spiritual gifts.

Do I get to choose my own gift?

The short answer is: NO.  We receive spiritual gifts as the Lord pleases, not as we please.  With that said, let’s take a moment to really get to the very heart of the matter: The real gift is the Holy Spirit Himself.  Consider:

“Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 2:38

The Holy Spirit is the gift.  When a person who has received the gift of the Holy Spirit is placed into the body of Christ, God at His sole discretion will manifest that gift in a way that is useful to building up the Kingdom.  Paul lays it out for us right after he discussed individual gifts:

All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.

1Cor. 12:11

Can I lose my gift? How long can I keep my gift?

Since we just listed the Holy Spirit as the real gift, the answer is no.  However, Scripture seems clear that if we are not faithful in using the manifestation of the gift, what we commonly call the “spiritual gift”, then it will be taken away.  In short, spiritual gifts are given on the basis of use it or lose it, as you will better see as we continue this study.

Will my gift change?

The gift is the Holy Spirit, and that will not change.  The way the Holy Spirit uses you may change as circumstances and situations change, and it isn’t all that unusual for a person to begin to manifest a gift that wasn’t evident beforehand.  This is fairly common in ministers who face new challenges in their churches, for instance.  It is important to bear in mind that God is sovereign and can do as He sees fit, thus He may desire such a shift in someone who is serving Him.  Of course another possibility is that as a person becomes more mature as a Christian they find a gift they hadn’t noticed when they were less mature.

Do all Christians receive spiritual gifts?

The answer is a resounding YES!

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

1Peter 4:10

Note that Peter uses the word “each” so that includes everyone.  It’s very important that we recognize that the spiritual gift that all Christians receive is that of the Holy Spirit Himself. What we commonly refer to as “spiritual gifts” are actually the ways in which the Holy Spirit is made manifest within each of us. The most important question is this: Are we using our gift in ministry?

When we get back together, we’ll continue with this question: Why did God give us spiritual gifts? See you then!

Now What?

I’ve been thinking, always dangerous, since I wrote this morning’s post Glory and Honor, and I’ve come to the conclusion that more needs to be written here on the subject of spiritual gifts. Yes, I’ll admit that I’ve been thinking about doing this for some months now but I’ve shied away from it up to this point for several reasons, but as I think about it now, I’ve mainly shied away from it because the whole subject is controversial. Coming to that realization, I’m a little irritated with myself, for when did I start avoiding controversy?

People who know me would not be likely to accuse me of such a thing; am I mellowing with advanced age or something? Naw, that couldn’t be it! I guess it just wasn’t the right time, but for whatever reason, now is the right time, yes I’ve got a green light at last, so let’s get on with covering spiritual gifts!

I am definitely not going to approach this subject as an academic study, for academic studies of spiritual gifts are precisely what has made the subject so difficult; spiritual things by their very nature, aren’t academic, but are instead experiential in nature. That isn’t to say that spiritual things can operate contrary to or in opposition to Scripture, because Scripture is revealed to us by the same Holy Spirit that is operating within us through spiritual gifts. The problem of academics comes when we insist on forcing everything to a specific Systematic Theology, which, though derived from the study of Scripture, is also subject the preferences and prejudices of specific human scholars, and thus subject to error. When we find ourselves needing to force something into Systematic Theology, we come away thinking that understanding Scripture is quite difficult, but the difficulty is not usually within the Scriptures, but rather within our Systematics, and should trigger the flashing red lights and warning bells within our minds that warn us that there is a problem with our Systematics.

OK, well that’s about as academic as I’m going to get in this study! Let’s get on with spiritual gifts, shall we? Here is a brief explanation of what they are…

Have you ever worked on a project where you couldn’t do the whole thing by yourself?  Have you ever needed to get help from another person who had skills that you don’t have?  I would guess that all of us have been in the situation where we needed another person with a particular skill set to get something accomplished, and spiritual gifts are sort of like that.  Every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts as you will see as we go through this study, but no one of us has them all.  Spiritual gifts are kind of like a tool box for the Kingdom, they are special gifts that transcend natural talent for getting the Lord’s work accomplished, and for most any activity that the church is involved in undertaking, more than one of these miraculous gifts will come into play.  Our task is to identify who has that gift and to be willing to plug the right person with the right gift into the right spot to do the Lord’s work. You can accurately say that the Lord’s work and spiritual gifts are both inter-dependant and no one person can do it all by himself.

For those who prefer neat and tidy definitions, here is our working definition:

A spiritual gift is a distinctive ability given by the Holy Spirit to every Christian according to God’s grace and design, for the purpose of building the body of Christ.

Put another way, a spiritual gift is a God-given supernatural capacity that enables you to do effective ministry.

Another question that needs to be dealt with right away is this: What are the passages in the Bible that deal directly with spiritual gifts? Here are the main ones…

Romans 12:3-21

(Verses 3-8 discuss the gifts, and 9-21 discuss the motivation that must be in place for their use)

1 Corinthians 12

Ephesians 4:7-16

1 Peter 4:10-11

I would strongly recommend that you read these very carefully, don’t just skin through them, read them carefully more than once, and let them really soak in so that as we continue through them you will have the fullest understanding of this subject.

Here’s the plan for this study: Starting next time, I’ll go through a number of frequently asked questions about spiritual gifts, then we’ll examine each one individually and take a look at where it comes from in Scripture, its attributes and dangers or pitfalls, and finally we’ll go over some things that might help you to discern which ones you might have.

See you back here tomorrow morning, first thing!

Glory and Honor

I received a great comment to yesterday’s post A Final Thought on John’s Gospel from paulfg that I would like to share with you this morning:

” I know how my story ends; victory, honor, glory!”
Don this a fab post! And so close to home in my life. Yet what crosses my mind is this:
a) we may really get it
b) we may actually do it
c) we may love to live it
We may be ready!

And then He deems making cups of tea, lifting chairs … that’s our gift. And we fight back. Doing that for 80-90 years rather than 33 … that is our “gift” … where is the glory in that, the honour, the victory? So we chase the bigger stuff, the glory stuff – and in so doing we miss “The Big Stuff” He sees and has – the “perfect stuff for who we are” stuff.

 

What an insightful observation, we find our ministry of serving and helping to be somewhat less than glamorous, so we fight for the “big stuff.” We’d like a little glory and honor right now, here on earth, in this world, so we step out on our own. Should the truth be told, we’ve probably all been in that place at one time or another, wouldn’t you agree?

But Jesus didn’t fall for that one.

He knew that His glory and honor would not be found in this world, and He avoided them. What Jesus received in this world was suffering, opposition, betrayal and persecution, and He taught us that since the servant is not greater than the Master, we would have those same things to deal with in our lives here on earth. Victory, glory and honor were realized later in the story, and so shall it be with us.

Actually, when you think about it, that isn’t so bad.

Over my lifetime, I’ve had the opportunity to see some pretty high-caliber people up close and personal; celebrities you might call some of them, and I can tell you that they were not always happy people. In one way or another, each was looking over his shoulder to see who was coming after him, each had worries that few of us are prepared to deal with, and each was looking forward to the day when he could have a “normal” life. Glory? Honor? They aren’t all they are cracked up to be.

We have all been given spiritual gifts, some have the “front of the room” kinds of gifts like leadership and teaching, while others have “behind the scenes gifts” like helps and service. For those, “making tea” and “lifting chairs” may not seem like much, but there are plenty of times I’ve wished I had those instead of leadership and teaching! Why? Because when you have those gifts, you also have those responsibilities, and those responsibilities include being the servant of everyone and answering to a higher standard.

The truth for many of us is that we really don’t know what our spiritual gift is, and we’re serving in the wrong area. Sadly, many congregations don’t talk much about spiritual gifts, for fear of sounding odd; maybe some don’t believe in such things… and then there are those that take the whole matter rather too far afield. If you are serving in an area that you don’t like, there is a good chance that you aren’t gifted for it, and that can make a big difference.

I can recall one time having a sit-down with a brother who wanted to be an Elder in the congregation. What the guy didn’t realize is that being a leader isn’t at all glamorous. Yes, sometimes you go before the congregation and say something, but most of the time, you are just at everyone’s beck and call, 24/7. They call you when they have a fight with their wife or husband at 3 am. They call when they are unhappy because somebody changed the way things are listed in the bulletin, or because the preacher forgot to thank them, or when a loved one is dying, or when they are depressed because they lost a job…

They seek you out with a great idea they have for a new ministry in the church, but they can’t see that it might not quite fit in with what all is currently going on, and they aren’t the one who will have to give account for leadership decisions. They don’t have any concept of what it means to prepare sermons 52 consecutive Sundays, or teach classes week after week, year after year. Yes, of course those things are a joy, but they are also a burden of sorts; a commitment that few are willing to take on. The man with whom I was speaking that day came to see that his gifts were in another area.

Do you receive honor and glory in this life for such things? No, mostly you receive complaints and critiques… from the ones who normally won’t do anything. You see, leadership, teaching, the “front of the room” things, aren’t as easy as they look, and no, the grass really isn’t any greener on that side of the hill.

Yet all of us carry on because we love the Lord Jesus Christ, and because we love our brothers and sisters, whatever our gifts may be. We do so with the full realization that the story doesn’t end when we breathe our last breath; no the story ends as we receive our inheritance in eternity, and that day is all we need, for our service in whatever capacity, whether we have a particular spiritual gift or not, is and must always be, a labor of love without any expectation of anything in return.

We might not always receive any praise from men, but on that Great Day, we hope to receive the only praise that counts for anything, that praise that come from God Himself: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

The Wonders of Modern Science and Technology

Procto18

I recently finished reading a book on railroads called “The Modern Railroad” by Edward Hungerford; you should check it out on Kindle… it’s a freebie. In this book, Mr. Hungerford tells of the amazing uses of technology in modern railroads, technology that allows railroads to keep track of trains, hundreds of them, all at one time. They use signals on the lines to keep the trains safe as they rumble across the land, they can operate huge yards that serve hundreds of trains per day. In fact, he goes into great detail about how three men in the control tower of a major passenger terminal such as Washington, DC’s Union Station, can maintain a smooth and on-time flow of from 600 to 800 trains each day, controlling dozens of switches simultaneously with a single flip of a switch…

Did I mention that the book was published in 1910?

To be honest, I never realized how technologically advanced railroads were in 1910.

I also couldn’t help but notice that reading “The Modern Railroad” sounded very much like listening to people today discuss the wonders of modern science and technology, only the modern speakers and writers would all say that 1910 technology wasn’t much more advanced than the stone age. Mr. Hungerford made about the same observations about mid 19th century technology.

To be fair to science and technology in general, I must acknowledge that amazing strides have been made, and hopefully will continue to made, but we need to keep some perspective on the subject of such things. The day will come soon when the things we gush about today will seem primitive to us… like mobile phones that weight several pounds for instance, or monochrome monitors, or my old Kaypro 2 computer, or a Commodore 64.

There are many things today that some folks claim that science has “proven” that haven’t been proven at all, but even so, science and technology are great and have provided us with many useful tools, like the internet, for example. Yet where can we place our trust? In scientific findings that have a way of changing over time? Let’s not forget that “modern” science proved the theory of spontaneous generation, that the world was flat, and that some ethnic groups were superior to others, and those guys aren’t looking real good now.

As I sit here and look forward to the next great discovery about how something God has created works, and the next great innovation that our God-given intelligence can devise, I must stop and reflect upon the Creator of everything that science investigates, and as I do I am struck anew with the awesome majesty of our God.

How about you?

A Final Thought on John’s Gospel

When I was a boy, I read a book about the life of Jesus, and it really got my attention. As I thought about it, and as I thought about this Jesus guy, I really had no problem believing that He was the Son of God, and it occurred to me that I should try to be more like Him, but there was one thing about Jesus that kind of bothered me; He cheated!

To my nine-year-old mind, Jesus cheated when He went to the cross because after all, He was God… and He knew how the story was going to end; that’s cheating! It was almost as if it didn’t count if He knew all the things that He clearly knew before He allowed Himself to be taken prisoner. Gee whiz, I would do the same thing if I knew all that stuff.

Yes, to be young again…

When I was a teen, that attitude stuck with me, in fact, I didn’t really see the implication of this until I was n my 30’s; yes Jesus knew how the story ended, and He went to the cross knowing that the story wasn’t nearly over yet. He would suffer greatly for a time, and then…? Victory, honor, glory, reigning…

John says that he wrote the gospel so that many might come to believe in Him, and many have done so, but how deep is our belief? Ah yes, an uncomfortable question, surely, for some of us might believe like I used to, accepting the basic facts, and still holding something back.

My thinking changed one day when reality hit me like a freight train: Yes, Jesus knew how His story would end… and so do I know how my story ends; victory, honor, glory!

Jesus knew He would rise from the grave, and so will I.

Jesus knew He would ascend to Heaven, and so do will I.

Jesus knew He would suffer for a short time, and so will I.

Jesus knew He would reign as King of kings and Lord of lords, and I know that I am co-heir with Him.

Because Jesus knew these things, He did His Father’s will, will I do the same?

Dear reader, this is where we come to the always inconvenient question: Do we really believe that what we believe is really real?

It is one thing to accept the basic facts on an academic or theoretical level, but will we allow them to affect who we are on a fundamental level? Well, will we?

We will if we really believe that what we believe is really real.