This morning, we’re going to continue our message series where we take a look at an analogy given to us by the Apostle Paul in how the church (us) is the body of Christ.
Last week, we found that it is His Spirit which unifies us into His body and how when we let our gates down, the Spirit of God comes rushing in to transform us and empower and equip us for His service. We see that it was not God’s desire that His work stop when Christ resurrected, however, that His work was to continue by those who believe in Him.
(Jesus said:) Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.
This morning, we’ll look at how to use the tools which God gives us to continue His work on Earth and see His kingdom come. These are referred to as the gifts of the Spirit.
|1 Corinthians 12
|Word of wisdom
|Word of knowledge
|Distinguishing between spirits
|Speaking in different kinds of tongues
|Interpretation of tongues
This morning, we’re going to start by looking at the way in which these gifts are to be used. Sort of like an operator’s manual that you would receive along with a new tool. The manual teaches the correct way to use the tool and warns of the potential dangers in not using it correctly. Just like a tool in the natural, the supernatural tools that God gives us can be used correctly and used to build up and create things or can be used incorrectly to tear down and destroy. They can bring both blessing and a curse; speak life or speak death – depending on how they are used.
Many have left the church or rejected these spiritual gifts altogether because they experienced the gifts used incorrectly. Just like tools in the natural, the spiritual gifts which God gives to us are very powerful! They are given us to bring about significant life changes in ourselves and others. Although very effective when used correctly, they cause incredible damage when used incorrectly. Once used incorrectly, it’s extremely difficult to reverse the damage caused. This does not mean that we should avoid these gifts, but that we should understand what God has given us, gain respect for them, and learn how to use them. After all, God has a purpose in giving these to us and they each serve a critical function within His body!
The first thing to understand in using His gifts is that:
1. He needs to be the power source.
It should always be Him moving through us. We need to stay filled up and built up with Him by spending much time in His word, His presence (worship), and prayer. One of the common danger zones where the misuse of the gifts of the Spirit abounds is when we are running empty spiritually and begin to minister out in our flesh speaking out our own opinions, will, and desires and labeling them as being from God. Just like a power tool in the natural needs to be plugged into a power source to properly function, we need to make sure that we are plugged into Him and that we’re moving in His power speaking out His will and desires. Jesus said it this way in a parable:
5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
If we stay plugged into Him, we will bear much fruit – our ministry will be highly effective! If we move out on our own away from Him, we wither up and basically become useful for one thing to Him – firewood…
God is the same yesterday, today, and forever – He will not contradict Himself. When using the gifts of the Spirit, what is done should always agree with scripture and the character of God. This parable said that if we remain in Him and His WORDS remain in us, that we would bear much fruit.
Even when Christ was using the gifts of the Spirit and driving out demons, He was accused of using a demonic power source to drive out demons (Beelzebul in Matthew 12). He explained that a kingdom divided against itself cannot stand and that the power by which He was driving out demons was, of course, the Spirit of God and in doing so was bringing His kingdom! It’s by our fruits that we can be tested – do we bear the fruits of the Spirit or the fruits of the flesh found in Galations 5?
Also, keep in mind that if they accused Jesus Himself of the gifts being demonic – don’t be surprised if we receive the same accusation at times. Stand firm in the truth knowing that it is the Spirit of God by whom you move and let the evidence speak for itself.
2. They should be used to minister to others (diakoneō – dee-ak-on-eh’-o – which means to serve) and to glorify Him.
1 Peter 4:10-11
10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. 11 If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.
So we see that the purpose of every gift which God gives us is to serve others and to glorify God. This should be our hearts desire – to see others built up and encouraged. The cool thing about the gifts of the Spirit are that they are not church or ministry specific. The gifts can be used in all areas of church ministry and life in general.
This can clearly be seen by Christ’s ministry – He did not only use the gifts in the synagogue while with those seeking God! He used them to serve everyone and was even scoffed at by the religious people for hanging out with and serving ‘sinners’. He even used them in the business realm and even used a word of knowledge to pay His and Peter’s taxes (Matthew 17:24-27). The truth is, however, that God has given us these gifts not just to build up His own body for His own sake or so that we can be built up for our own selfish sake, but so that His body would be fully equipped to go out and continue His work in saving the lost and revealing the truth about who He is.
So the gifts should be used to serve and build up others.
29 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. 30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.
When we choose to tear people down, it grieves the Holy Spirit! And notice that in these versus, nowhere does it say that it is for our sake that we should build others up – it’s all about others; according to their needs and to benefit those who listen!
3. They should be done in love.
It’s only when we choose to be obedient to God’s command that we are able to live life to its full and experience His true joy and peace. He’s asked us to simply do two things:
1. Love Him with our everything
2. Love others as ourselves
To even further summarize these two commands, He’s simply called us to LOVE!
1 Corinthians 13
1 If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Ministry – no matter how effective or sacrificial it is – if it is not done in love and with the right motive, gains nothing. This is also one of the easiest ways to misuse the gifts of the Spirit – to use them in an unloving way.
In the English language, we have one word (love) which takes on many meanings. In the Greek language, there are four and the word used in this context is the word agape. This type of love is the same one used in John 3:16 in how God loves us by sacrificing and completely giving Himself for us. It’s the type of love that lays down self for the benefit and sake of others expecting nothing in return. We read on to find attributes of this kind of love which the gifts are to be used in:
1 Corinthians 13
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8a Love never fails.
When using the gifts of the Spirit to serve others, these attributes of the love that we are to use the gifts in helps us to draw boundaries and to discern the best way in which to share something that God gives us.
4. The gifts give us only a part of the revelation of God.
1 Corinthians 13
8b But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
When Christ returns and we’re called up with Him – the gifts disappear as God reveals Himself to us in His fullness. Until that day, He continues to reveal the multi-faceted awesomeness of Himself in part through the gifts of the Spirit.
5. We should be eagerly desiring the gifts.
1 Corinthians 14:1
1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.
As we learned last week that God does not want us to be uninformed of the gifts of the Spirit, we find today that He also wants us to eagerly desire them! This is why they are called gifts – they are free and just like a kid Christmas Eve, we should be eager and desire to receive them!
Too often, we are either ignorant of them (what they are, where they come from, and what their purpose is) or we are hesitant or even ashamed of them. We know very clearly that these are not God’s desire, but that rather through Paul’s letters to the Corinthians that we should be well informed of them and very eager to receive and use them!
Out of all of the gifts of the Spirit, why does Paul focus on prophecy and place such emphasis on it? Prophecy speaks forth the potential that God sees in circumstances or in someone – it encourages positive change and alignment with His will. It reveals God’s heart and mind! Prophecy also frequently triggers the other gifts as well. In the context of us being Christ’s body – prophecy is like the nervous system which hears from Christ (the head) and communicates to the other parts of the body in order to mobilize their functions within the body to act and respond to His word.
3 Do two walk together
unless they have agreed to do so?
4 Does a lion roar in the thicket
when it has no prey?
Does it growl in its den
when it has caught nothing?
5 Does a bird swoop down to a trap on the ground
when no bait is there?
Does a trap spring up from the ground
if it has not caught anything?
6 When a trumpet sounds in a city,
do not the people tremble?
When disaster comes to a city,
has not the LORD caused it?7 Surely the Sovereign LORD does nothing
without revealing his plan
to his servants the prophets.
(Jesus said) I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.
God wants to share with us what His desires are. Just as we normally discuss our plans with our friends, God desires to share His plans with us – this is essentially what prophecy is. For this reason, hearing His voice is critical in using His gifts!
Another obvious step is using the gifts, but one that must be mentioned, is to just do it! We need to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit placed within us and obedient to do what God nudges us to do. God never forces us to do anything. We are not robots nor zombies – He does not take control of our bodies and force us to do or say things against our will. The gifts of the Spirit are simply God revealing Himself through us as we cooperate with Him. As we are obedient to step out and do our part – He is faithful to do His part!
1 As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.
What are we called? He calls us:
*List answers from congregation, but possibly:
Princes and princesses
2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
His desire is unity – all working together as ONE!
11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 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.14 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 people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 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.
God’s desire is for each one of us to fulfill our function of His body and to build each other up in love so that His body would become full and mature. For this reason, He has given us what is commonly referred to as the five fold ministry. God has given us apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers to EQUIP His people for works of service so that His body might be built up into the fullness of Christ.
A significant part of my role as pastor is to equip each one of you to do the work of His service which you were created for. To assist me in determining what your spiritual gifts are and what your role is within His body, I would like for each one willing to serve and fill that role to take a spiritual gifts assessments from the altar and complete it. It’s not a test, so there are no right or wrong answers. If you are wondering what you have to offer God and where you belong in His body – this is a great way of finding out. Each one of us is incredibly valuable to Him and He has created us uniquely to reveal something of Himself to mankind and for a specific purpose. Come and find what that purpose is and rise up in faith to serve God and others and take your place within His body!