Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Truth about Spiritual Gifts - a sermon

1 Corinthians 12 

"Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed… (skip to v. 4)

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit."

In 1972, NASA launched exploratory space probe – Pioneer 10. According to officials, this satellite’s primary mission was to reach Jupiter, photograph the planet and beam data back to earth about Jupiter’s magnetic fields, radiation belts, and atmosphere.

Scientists called it “a Bold Plan,” for at the time, no satellite had ever gone beyond Mars – and it was feared that asteroids would destroy it before it could even reach its intended target.

BUT, Pioneer 10 didn’t just accomplish its mission – it did so much more!

Swinging past Jupiter in November 1973, the giant planet’s incredible gravity hurled the little satellite even faster toward the edge of the solar system.

At one billion miles from the sun, Pioneer passed Saturn. At some 2 billion miles, it sailed by Uranus. Neptune was next at 3 billion miles… and little Pluto at almost 4 billion miles. By 1997, 25 years after its initial launch, Pioneer 10 was more than 6 billion miles from the Sun!

Most incredible, is the fact that, despite this VAST distance, Pioneer 10 continued to beam information to scientists here on Earth. These radio signals emanated from a small, 8-watt transmitter. A transmitter that uses the energy of a household nightlight was able to beam signals across several BILLION miles back to earth.

Amazing, don’t you think? That satellite was not qualified to do what it did. Engineers designed it to last 3 years tops. But it kept going more than 12 times longer – and that tiny 8 watt transmitter accomplished more than anyone ever dreamed possible.


But no more incredible than what God can do through those who offer themselves in service of the Lord. With the help of the Holy Spirit – in us and through us – God can accomplish surprising things through people with 8-watt abilities. Amen?

As a child of God, I want you to grasp, if you can, the significance of God’s work in you. When you received Christ as Savior and Lord of your life, not only did you receive the PEACE of God – you received His power and purpose. God has called and equipped us to serve His church – giving each one of us super-natural gifts and abilities for the Glory of God and the Good of His people!

Praise the Lord! Each person HERE has a purpose! Each of us - regardless our past experiences… our education levels… the size of our bank-accounts or the color of our skin - ALL OF US matter - all have a role to fill in HIS church. And it is ALL BECAUSE the Holy Spirit works in us.

BUT, what the Lord intended for the good of His church, is often perverted and exploited by men. In some cases through ignorance, in others through outright abuse, instead of blessing, spiritual gifts become a blight to the Church.

Such was the case in Corinth. Though saved and called to serve one another – many had used their spiritual gifts to promote selfish agendas – to get honor for themselves - for power – so, what was intended to bless had become a curse. Instead of serving the Lord and their fellow man, they had made Spiritual Gifts about getting honor for themselves. So chapters 12 through 14 were written to clear up any misconceptions about spiritual gifts so their church might be fruitful and healthy once again.

God knew this tragedy at Corinth would oft be repeated in churches just like ours thousands of years later – so He, in His sovereignty, included this message in the Bible for us. Sadly, spiritual gifts often becomes a tool used by wicked men to enrich themselves at the Gospel’s expense.

What’s more - few subjects have caused MORE confusion, more DIVISION in the modern church - than Spiritual Gifts.

Where did we go wrong and HOW can we get back to a place of blessing and fruitfulness once again???

Paul provides clarity in this passage:

1. First, he shares the Inherent Danger found in Counterfeits in vv. 1-3. It shouldn’t surprise us that – satan would attempt to counterfeit something so valuable. Given the fact that he HATES the church, he plants counterfeits among us to hinder the work of God.

A “counterfeit” is a cheap, faulty reproduction of the genuine. It may look like the real thing – but after careful inspection, it is found FAKE. For example: in just about every major city, you will find people selling cheap knock-offs out of the trunk of their car. Purses, watches, jewelry…you name it, they’ve got it. People buy these items because they want to have the image of importance on a McDonald’s budget. And in a world where appearance is everything – we can understand the success of counterfeits.

Sadly, the church is not exempt from cheap-knock-offs. From the very being, Satan has brought his counterfeits into the church to hinder the success of the church. Leaders - more interested in image than integrity - power over service. They may have incredible talent and say many of the right things … but tragically have no real walk with God. From a distance they move us with their impressive facades. But behind closed doors, they are as lifeless as any corpse in the cemetery.

So Paul offers a three-fold warning:

First, don’t be ignorant about it. Paul wants the Church to be informed – wise. And with good reason: we tend to be gullible… we exercise little discernment. We see someone on TV with a big crowd, and we automatically assume they are genuine and that everything they say is trustworthy.

We buy books and other products marketed to Christians and we hold those materials up on the same level as the Bible. If a little trinket claims some spiritual significance, we run out and buy it because it makes us FEEL “Christian.” The Corinthians were gullible – so Paul reminds them that not everything that glitters … is gold.

THEN he offers insight about it in verse 2. He talks about how the people of that day blindly followed idols, and then reminds the Corinthians that they ALSO followed right along with everyone else. So Paul reminds them - The popularity of the belief doesn’t make it true.

And third, he calls them to investigate it in verse 3. Some of the things they saw going on in their church could easily be dismissed as cheap imitation IF they would search the scriptures. Those who teach and preach, those in leadership, should WELCOME people to measure what is said and done by the BIBLE. Dig! Don’t take everything at face value simply because it claims to be “Christian.” Search the WORD of GOD to see if it is true.

It’s easy to be deceived by appearances. Satan hates the church. He hates the Lord. He hates you. He wants to blind men’s hearts and minds to the truth and power of the Gospel. AND, he works in the church, convincing us to be more concerned with image than integrity. He can hinder the work of God IF he can plant his counterfeits among us!

The Inherent DANGER found in counterfeits!

2. THEN, in effort to clear up their confusion about spiritual gifts, he shows them the Incredible Diversity found in Christ in vv. 4-11.

One of the hot topics in Corinth was the belief that if a person really possessed the Holy Spirit, he would be empowered to do the more dynamic SIGN gifts, like speaking in tongues, performing miracles, or healing the sick. In their minds – the PROOF a person possessed the Spirit was seen in their ability to do these GREAT things. This error caused people to look down on those LESSER gifts - making Spiritual gifts about receiving honor rather than serving each other – and thus, missing the whole purpose OF them.

The Bible teaches that EVERY born again believer possesses the Holy Spirit. And WITH the Holy Spirit comes an amazing diversity of gifts. He lists several of the gifts in this passage. God knew His church would have many needs. So He distributes His gifts among us so that all of those needs will be met. God’s gifts enable us to serve one another – they enable us to work as one for the good of all. BUT, when we focus on one or two gifts and neglect the others, we create an unhealthy environment that weakens the church.

But not only are these gifts unique, Spiritual Gifts promote Unity. When we all work together – great things happen.

I have been a sports fan all my life. Even as a boy playing with other children, we would pretend to be our favorite sports star. In our immaturity we would highlight the skills of our favorite athlete on the team, and credit THEM with the win – the QB, the Pitcher, the 3 pt. shooter. But when you get older you realize it takes the whole team working together to win championships. Your team might have the very best QB in the league, but without his teammates, he can’t win.

In Church life, we often make the mistake of over-valuing the star, the guy in front… we mistakenly give one person the credit for the SUCCESS of the church. But the healthy church is the one where all of the parts work together. In GOD’S ECONOMY, the greatest leaders are the greatest servants.

It’s sad how fleshly the church often becomes. We want recognition. We want people to appreciate us. But Pride destroys the church. When man takes the glory that only God should receive, God stops blessing.

And third, not only are spiritual gifts unique and promote unity, third, they are universal. In other words - EVERY born again believer has received at least one spiritual gift for the purpose of serving the Lord in the local church according to vv. 7 and 11. Every child of God has a ministry to perform. All of us have received at least ONE gift that we can use for the good of others and the glory of God. And ultimately, our sense of belonging, growth, and contentment hinges upon discovering what it is that God has called us to do. And besides that, other members of the church are blessed by our gifts. The church functions efficiently and effectively when we discover what it is that God has designed us to do.

The incredible diversity found in Christ.

3. And then, after showing us the inherent danger found in counterfeits and the incredible diversity found in Christ, Paul shows us the inter-dependence found in Church in verses 12-27. WE NEED EACH OTHER. And to illustrate his point, he compares the church to the human body.

The human-body is a wonderful thing in how all of its different parts work together for the good of the whole. Unless ravaged by disease or deformity, each part works in concert with the other for the good of the whole. Each part is important. And the whole body suffers when one of those parts doesn’t function as it should.

A PERFECT analogy for spiritual gifts in the church.

Is it important to have a preacher? You better believe it! But no more important than having nursery workers, musicians, an encourager who calls at just the right time and says “I’m praying for you today.”

That man who mows the lawn is important. That woman who keeps the Sunday School records, that deacon, that trustee, that worship leader, that prayer warrior, that person who cooks a meal for someone recovering from surgery, that Greeter who warmly speaks to you when you first walk in - ALL important! If you don’t think so, just go without them for a while. Stonebridge would not be healthy and strong without all of its members working together to serve each other and honor the Lord Jesus.

That’s how God intended it to be – that’s why He blessed us with gifts. But that blessing is wasted when we are only interested in serving for personal benefit, OR, we are preoccupied with getting credit OR we are unwilling to give our time OR when we are jealous of others gifts OR think what God has given us is insignificant.

BUT, when we yield our all to God and ask Him to empower us and use us, there is no limit to what His church can accomplish!

How about you? Are you serving the Lord? Do you know what God has gifted you to do and ARE YOU using those gifts for the good of others and the glory of God? Like the human body or the pieces of a puzzle, every Christian has a part to play, a role to fulfill. What is yours? Have you asked the Lord to show you… to use you?

The beauty of it all is that ALL OF US - from children all the way to senior citizens, all of us are equally important and have a part in God’s work.

Maybe you have not yet discovered what God would have YOU to do. It isn’t likely that you will receive a Post Card from God about it. You have to seek it. You have to give yourself to the Lord, praying, searching, volunteering to serve. You can take the first step for discovering yours right now.