January 1, 2017
Pastor Joe Wittwer
There’s More!
#4—Gifted by the Spirit

 

Introduction and offering:

Happy New Year!

Today we start the New Year by finishing our series on the Holy Spirit, entitled “There’s More!” There’s more to God than what you know or have experienced so far—and that’s true for all of us, no matter how much we know or have experienced. God is eternal so there is always more to know and experience. The proper posture for any Christian is this: heart and hands open, hungry and thirsty for more. “Fill us again, Lord, with Your Spirit—over and over.” There’s more!

We’re wrapping up this series by talking about spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit gives each of us gifts or abilities that we are to use in serving Him and serving others. These gifts empower us to do God’s work.

ILL: Did anyone get power tools for Christmas? I love power tools!

Many years ago, the water main coming into our house broke. Unfortunately, the break was on our side of the property line; a few feet toward the street and the city would have repaired it. But I was responsible, and poor and stupid, so I called my good friend, Rick Noll, and we got our pick axes and shovels and went to work. We peeled back the sod in a 6’X6’ square, rolled it up and started digging. After an hour, we were soaked in sweat, exhausted, and had dug about 6 inches down—we needed to dig down about 6 feet. It was almost solid rock. I looked at Rick and said, “This is stupid! We need power!”

I called a guy with a backhoe; he came over and dug 6 feet down in less than an hour. It was the best $85 I had ever spent!

To do God’s work, we need God’s power. That’s what the gifts of the Spirit are. The Holy Spirit empowers us to do God’s work.

Big Idea: God has gifted you to do His work in the world. Get out there and be open for business!

We’re going to do a quick flyover on what the Bible says about spiritual gifts; I’ll answer a few of the most common questions; and I’ll finish with a challenge from Scripture.

Offering here.

 

  1. An overview of spiritual gifts.

I’ve listed on your outline the four major passages in the New Testament that discuss spiritual gifts. Here is an overview, the highlights of what these passages teach about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

 

First, a definition of spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are abilities given by God to Christians do His work. They are different from natural abilities. Both natural abilities and spiritual gifts come from God, and both can be used by God. In fact, many times our spiritual gifts work hand in hand with our natural abilities. Natural abilities are inherent at birth, while spiritual gifts are given after we’re born again. Spiritual gifts are abilities given by God that empower and equip us to do God’s work.

 

Second, the source of the gifts: they are from the triune God, Father, Son and Spirit. Sometimes they are attributed to the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them.

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Here, the Holy Spirit distributes or gives these gifts just as He determines. Sometimes they are attributed to Jesus.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers,

Here, Jesus gives grace (another word for spiritual gifts) to each of us and gives these gifts to the church. And sometimes spiritual gifts are attributed to God the Father.

1 Corinthians 12:18 But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.

1 Corinthians 12:28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues.

Here, God the Father is the one placing the gifts in the church, making each of us what He wants us to be.

So spiritual gifts are from God. Why is that important? Two reasons. First, since they are from God, they are good. Every gift God gives is a good gift. He doesn’t give any bad gifts. Did anyone get a bad gift for Christmas?

ILL: One family received a fruitcake from a neighbor that was so bad, it was inedible. They tossed it. But mom, always a diplomat wrote the neighbor a thank you note and said, “Thank you for the fruitcake. As you can imagine, something like that doesn’t last long at our house!”

God doesn’t give bad gifts—only good ones. You’re not getting a fruitcake! You have nothing to fear.

Second, since spiritual gifts are from God, you don’t get to decide which ones you have. He decides; you receive. One of the popular ideas in our culture is that you can be anything you want to be. Sorry—I can’t be a mother no matter how hard I try. Or an NFL star. Or win The Voice. Or lots of other things. We all have limits. And we all have gifts—and God is the one who decides. Spiritual gifts are from God.

 

Third, the purpose of the gifts: to serve others.

Spiritual gifts are God-given abilities that enable us to serve others effectively.

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Use whatever gift you have received to serve others. Spiritual gifts are to be used to serve, to help, to build others up.

Ephesians 4:11–12 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

These gifts—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers—are people who given by Jesus to the church for what purpose? To equip God’s people for works of service. My job as a pastor isn’t to do God’s work while you watch; my purpose is to equip you to do God’s work. I’m equipping you so you can serve others—and working together, the church is built up and grows.

1 Corinthians 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the Spirit’s presence in our lives. They are God’s power given to do God’s work. They are given for the common good—that is for the good of everyone.

1 Corinthians 14:12 So it is with you. Since you are eager for gifts of the Spirit, try to excel in those that build up the church.

What purpose do the gifts serve? They build up the church. The church is people—they build up people, help them grow and become strong in their faith.

So the purpose of the gifts is to empower us to serve others. Why is this important? Spiritual gifts are not merit badges that show how spiritual we are. They are given to every Christian, new or old, mature or immature. They are given to equip us all for service: service in the church and in the world.

Many of these passages referred to the gifts in the context of the church, and certainly spiritual gifts are used to serve and build up other Christians. But I don’t think they are primarily or exclusively for church services. I think God gifts us to serve others in the church and in the world. And you’re in the world more than you are in the church! What a shame if your gifts were only good in the church, and not in the world where you live most of your life, and where there are so many needs!

In the book of Acts, we see the early Christian missionaries using spiritual gifts to advance the gospel. For example, Peter heals the lame man sitting by the Temple gate. Word spreads, a crowd gathers, Peter preaches the gospel and thousands come to Christ! This kind of thing happens over and over in the book of Acts, and it’s still happening today.

ILL: Jerry Cook, in his book, Love, Acceptance, and Forgiveness, tells this story.

A young woman named Jackie, a fairly new Christian, walked into a major discount store in Portland. As she passed through the prescription area, she noticed a woman leaning on the counter, obviously very sick. Jackie felt an impulse to stop and pray with the woman, but she did what 90 percent of us would do and said to herself, “No, she would think I’m nuts.”

Jackie did her shopping and on the way out passed the prescription counter again. The woman was now seated in a chair, still obviously very ill. Again Jackie was impressed, “Go, talk to her, pray with her.”

Jackie started on out the door, but she just couldn’t go. So she resigned herself to become the classic fool for Jesus. She went over, sat down beside the sick woman, took her by the hand and said, “I can see that you’re quite sick, and I don’t want you to think I’m imposing, but I’m a Christian. Would you mind if I prayed for you?”

The woman began to weep. She said, “I’ve been sick for so long.” Jackie just held her hand and with eyes open said, “Lord Jesus, I know You love this lady, and I know You don’t want her to be sick. Just because You love her, heal her and show her how much You care.” That was it. They exchanged phone numbers and Jackie went home.

The next day, Jackie got a phone call from this woman asking her to come to the woman’s house. Jackie went. The woman’s husband had stayed home from work in order to meet Jackie. The prescription the woman got the day before was unopened on the kitchen table. The woman and her husband were both standing there weeping.

The woman said, “When I came home, I went to bed and slept all night. You know, I haven’t slept all night for years.” With her particular sickness, she slept only for short periods and had to get up to take medication. Her husband thought she had died. He came in and awakened her to ask if she was okay. She said that she felt great. He said, “Well, you haven’t taken your medicine.” She said, “I know, but I slept all night.” She then told her husband what had happened at the shopping center. So he wanted to meet Jackie.

The people knew practically nothing about the gospel. Jackie explained to them the love of Jesus, how they could be free from their sin, and how Jesus wants people well not only physically but on the inside. They both trusted in Jesus.

I love that story. God used Jackie—a new Christian—who simply listened and obeyed. The gift of healing was used to bring this couple to Jesus. I think the gifts are for the marketplace, the home, the school, and not just the church. The purpose of the gifts is to serve others, to do God’s work.

 

Fourth, the nature of the gifts.

There are many different kinds of spiritual gifts. Each passage contains a list of different gifts—the lists are different, suggesting that not all the spiritual gifts are listed in any one of the lists, or even in all of them together. Over 20 different gifts are listed—and as I said, I don’t think the lists are exhaustive. There’s more!

Here are the lists.

 

1 Corinthians 12-14

Message of wisdom

Message of knowledge

Faith

Gifts of healing

Miracles

Prophecy

Distinguishing between spirits

Speaking in different tongues

Interpretation of tongues

Apostles

Teachers

Helping

Guidance or administration

Giving

Martyrdom

Song (worship)

 

Romans 12

Prophecy

Serving

Teaching

Encouraging

Giving

Leading

Showing mercy

 

Ephesians 4

Apostles

Prophets

Evangelists

Pastors

Teachers

 

1 Peter 4

Speaking

Serving

As you can see, the gifts are many and diverse in order to meet many different needs. And once more, I want to remind you that I think these lists are representative, not exhaustive. There’s more.

 

Fifth, our attitude toward the gifts.

We should “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:31 Now eagerly desire the greater gifts.

1 Corinthians 14:1 Follow the way of love and eagerly desire gifts of the Spirit, especially prophecy.

What does it mean to “eagerly desire”? The Greek word is zeloo—we get the English word “zeal” from it. It means, “to be positively and intensely interested in something: to eagerly desire, to strive for.” What is something you are currently “positively and intensely interested in?”

ILL: The last couple years, I decided I wanted to get my golf game in shape and bring down my handicap. So I’ve taken lessons; I bought some instructional videos; I subscribed to golf magazine; I joined a men’s club; and I practiced regularly. I “eagerly desired” to get good. Sadly, I’m as bad as ever! But I’m still working on it!

So here’s my own challenge: do I “eagerly desire” spiritual gifts as much as I do being good at golf? Am I as “positively and intensely interested” in being gifted by God to serve others well as I am in lowering my handicap?

How about you? Do you eagerly desire spiritual gifts? Do you want to be used by God to help others?

Ok, there’s a quick flyover on spiritual gifts. Now let’s answer a few specific and often asked questions.

 

  1. A few questions:
  2. Does everyone have spiritual gifts?

The short answer is yes! If you are a Christian, you are gifted. God makes sure that every person is gifted to serve others.

Romans 12:6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith;

1 Corinthians 12:11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

Ephesians 4:7 But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

1 Peter 4:10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.

Each of you is gifted by God. God has given each of you something to serve others and make a difference in the world.

 

  1. Are the gifts resident and permanent, or given as needed?

The short answer is Yes. Both.

On the one hand, Paul’s concept of the church as a body and each of us as different members of it would argue for the idea of resident gifts. You have a gift—you are a prophet, or a leader, or a helper, or a healer, or an administrator, or a mercy-giver. God imparts gifts that stay with us and make us who we are. I am a pastor. I can’t get away from it! I am a leader. It’s who I am. I am a teacher. I talk all the time!

Because the gifts are resident and permanent, each of us needs to discover how God wired us and gifted us, and work in our power alley. The best way to discover your gifts is simply to try different things. You can take spiritual gift tests—they are helpful. But by far the best way to discover what you’re gifted to do is to do stuff! I learned a long time ago that my primary gift is not administration. I thank God for the folks who tend the details. I look at some of the important stuff they manage and I think, “Just shoot me now!” I learned I wasn’t a gifted administrator by trying it! Don’t be afraid to try and fail—it’s how we learn. Do stuff!

And because the gifts are resident and permanent, we need to appreciate those who have different gifts than us. We need them! And they need us!   So, yes, the gifts are permanent and resident—you have certain gifts.

And yes, the gifts are given as needed. The Holy Spirit lives within you and can give whatever gift is needed at moment. This is why we’re told to eagerly desire the greater gifts. What’s a greater gift? It’s the one that is needed right now.

ILL: A few weeks ago, a wonderful lady in our church asked me to pray for her. She had an accident and was in terrible pain. I prayed, and the next day she contacted me and said the Lord healed her. The pain was completely gone.

Now I don’t think I have a gift of healing. But in this case, I think God used me to give her a gift of healing. It was what was needed at that moment. Honestly, all I did was pray a simple prayer—just like Jackie in the story I told earlier.

Because the gifts can be given as needed, each of us should want God to use us, and then be open for business. God may want to use you to do things you’ve never done before. There’s more!

 

  1. Does everyone speak in tongues?

When we talk about spiritual gifts, the most often asked question is this one: what about speaking in tongues? There are two extremes.

Some people maximize it. They make it the most important spiritual gift and the one that every Christian should have. We saw in week two, on the baptism in the Spirit, that often in the book of Acts, when people were baptized in the Holy Spirit, they spoke in tongues. It was the most common sign, but not the only one; people also prophesied or praised God. Yet some Christians believe that speaking in tongues is the universal sign of the baptism in the Spirit—you haven’t been baptized in the Spirit unless you’ve spoken in tongues. And they believe that the gift of tongues is available to every believer and should be sought by every believer.

But Paul seems to disagree. His comparison of the church to a human body emphasizes that we don’t all have the same gifts.

1 Corinthians 12:17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be?

We are not all one big eye, or ear, or tongue. His whole point is that there are many gifts and we need to appreciate them all, and we all don’t have the same ones. Also, he finishes this chapter with a series of rhetorical questions.

1 Corinthians 12:29–30 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?

The obvious answer to every question is, “no.” No, we’re not all apostles or prophets or teachers. No, we don’t all speak in tongues. No we’re not all the same.

Some people maximize it and make it the most important gift. That’s one extreme.

Some people minimize it. They say it is the least important gift, or that it doesn’t exist at all any more. They claim it is divisive and want to downplay it.

But again, Paul seems to disagree. He certainly never says that it is the least important gift. In fact, he claims that he uses the gift more than anyone in Corinth, and wishes that all of them had it too, and even more, that they could all prophesy. And he explicitly tells them not to forbid speaking in tongues.

The truth is that hundreds of millions of Christians have experienced this gift and found it useful. It is the only gift that has a personal benefit. All the gifts are to be used to serve and build up others, but speaking in tongues alone benefits the one who uses it.

1 Corinthians 14:4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church.

How would speaking in tongues edify or build up the speaker? Paul explains:

1 Corinthians 14:2 For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit.

Paul says that when you speak in tongues, to whom are you speaking? To God. What do we call speaking to God? Prayer. Does prayer build you up? Yes. This is why the one who speaks in tongues is edified—he or she is praying. They don’t understand the language they are speaking, but their spirit is praying and so they are built up.

1 Corinthians 14:14–19 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.

When I pray in tongues, my spirit is praying even though my mind is unfruitful—I don’t understand what I’m saying. Have you ever been praying and run out of words? There was more to say, but you couldn’t say it? That’s when I let my spirit pray.

15 So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding.

Paul says that he is going to pray with both his understanding and spirit (in tongues), and also sing with both. So speaking in tongues can be Spirit-inspired prayer or worship. Both will build you up, but in a group, unless it is interpreted, it won’t benefit others.

16 Otherwise when you are praising God in the Spirit, how can someone else, who is now put in the position of an inquirer, say “Amen” to your thanksgiving, since they do not know what you are saying? 17 You are giving thanks well enough, but no one else is edified.

18 I thank God that I speak in tongues more than all of you. 19 But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Paul’s point is that when we meet together, whatever we do has to be for the common good, to benefit others and not just ourselves. If you speak in tongues, you build up yourself, but if others don’t understand, it does nothing for them. So Paul concludes:

1 Corinthians 14:28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.

In church, if it’s not going to be interpreted, keep it to yourself! You can still pray to God quietly and you’ll benefit.

A quick summary:

Speaking in tongues is a good gift—like all of God’s gifts. It can build up the individual who prays or sings in tongues, and when interpreted, it can build up the church. Not everyone speaks in tongues. But like any other gift, anyone can eagerly desire it and ask God for it.

  1. A final challenge: Use your gifts to serve others!

1 Peter 4:10–11 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. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Use your gifts to serve others…so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ!

Friends, my dream is that every one of you will go be open for business this week. You are a Christian. You have the Holy Spirit. He has gifted you. So you are equipped to do God’s work. Tell your neighbor: You are equipped. You are a minister! Be open for business!

Go love the unloveable, serve the needy, heal the sick, listen to the lonely, tell the good news, and pray for people. You are a Christian—be open for business.

ILL: About 4 years ago, a couple in our church sent this email.

Several months ago when Pastor Joe was visiting his son’s grave, he ran into two people who were also visiting a grave. They were total strangers but Joe took the time to walk over and talk to them and offer them words of solace and hope. These people are “friends of friends” and I chanced to talk to them at another memorial and they spoke about meeting “this pastor on a big motorcycle whose son had died.” When I asked if his name was “Joe” they said, “That’s it!”

Anyway, not sure what Joe said to them (neither am I), but it changed their lives. This couple—who are not very religious—said they felt the presence of God. They said it was the first time in a long time they’d felt peace and hope regarding the person they’d lost. The gal said, “It was like being visited by an angel—who brought the comfort we needed at exactly that moment.”   She got tears in her eyes and was so grateful. I can’t say how this story played out because the individuals are from out of town and I rarely see them… But I got the feeling they were going to “go back to Church” when they got home.

Here’s the deal. I got that email, and couldn’t even remember that experience. The whole thing couldn’t have lasted more than a few minutes. I was simply being a Christian, open for business, and God used it. I simply moved toward someone in need.

You’re a Christian. God has gifted you. Be open for business!