Posts Tagged ‘spiritual gifts’

Series on Witness

(Edited). We are making good progress in our sermon series on witness. Today we are up to the “E” in our acronym of the word “witness.” And the title is “Everyone can be a part.” What we are doing today is remembering some general teaching about the body of Christ and how the body works, and then applying this to our topic of reaching out.

1. Everyone has something to offer

God created each one of us and God has given each one of us unique abilities and talents. As David said to God in Psalm 139:14, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” And so are we all. A good example of this in our congregation is our worship team.

And as Christians each of us have spiritual gifts, because the Spirit has come to live in us and work through us. This is what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 – “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

I don’t think that this is an exhaustive list, but it does show us some of the unique ways that the Spirit works through different ones of us. And as each of us allows the Spirit to work in us for the common good the body is built up.

In terms of reaching out, some of you are specifically gifted to reach out. Some of you have talents and abilities and spiritual gifts that empower you to be effective at reaching out. And on top of this, some of you may also be called to the role of an evangelist. I have known a number of evangelists and I love to see them at work. Gary and Denise are among this group. And maybe God is calling others of you to the role of an evangelist. May that be so!

2. God calls forth leaders in the body

Paul says this is Ephesians 4:11, talking about gifts that Christ has given to bless the church, “And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers . . ..” This verse speaks of four or five different leadership roles in the body of Christ. This is my take:

  •  apostles plant churches
  • prophets encourage and call the church to faithfulness
  • evangelists share Jesus with others
  • shepherds or pastors oversee congregations
  • and teachers teach the Word to the body. These last two may well be just one since teaching is a, or the key activity of a pastor.

As each leader uses their gifts and callings, the whole body is blessed and built up.

In terms of outreach some have been called to lead in reaching out to others. Gary and Denise are helping give leadership to our congregation. The Elders and I work at this. And here recently the Fun and fellowship team has given leadership as well.

3. We are all to be well-rounded Christians

That is, able to do lots of different things as mature Christians. For instance, not everyone is called to be a teacher, but we are all called to teach each other. Paul says in Colossians 3:16 that we are to be “teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom.” So you don’t have to be called to teach SS now and then, or to teach your children about the faith as parents, or to speak a word into a fellow believer’s life that needs to be taught something.

Another example, not everyone is gifted as an encourager, but we are all called to encourage one another. As Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “encourage one another and build one another up.” So you may not have the gift of encouraging or a ministry focused on this, but you can still see someone who is down and say a good word to build them up and bless them.

So we all have gifts and specialties. But we are all also to be well-rounded, able to let God use us in all kinds of ways, depending on the situation.

In terms of outreach, not all are evangelists, but Jesus calls us all to be a witness for him. Jesus tells us in Acts 1:8,  “you will be my witnesses.” Not all have a ministry focus on outreach, but each of us are to always be prepared, as Peter says in 1 Peter 3:15, “to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”

  •  we can all speak and talk about the Lord
  • we can all look for opportunities that God opens up for us to share our lives and faith with others
  • we can all pray for the lost
  • we can all support and encourage those who do focus on outreach.

4. Leaders are to equip you for ministry

This is where there is often confusion. We fall into thinking that the pastor or other leaders are here to do the work for us. You support them and they get things done on your behalf. But this is not a scriptural understanding of ministry.

Yes, you are to support them, and yes they are to get things done according to their gifting. But what leaders do ultimately has to do with equipping us all for ministry. Paul makes this point in Ephesians 4:12. After talking about apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers, he tells us that leaders are “to equip the saints for the work of ministry.” Not to do it for them, but to empower them to do ministry.

For instance those who lead as teachers help all of us to know how to teach and what to teach. And those who have a ministry of encouragement help us all to know how to encourage others better. We become more well-rounded.

In terms of outreach as well, leaders empower and prepare us all to reach out. Neither the Elders and I, nor Gary and Denise are here to do the work for you. Rather we are here to encourage you, to do the work with you, and to provide opportunities for you to reach out in ways that any Christian can do.

5. To be healthy all parts of the body must be doing their part

As I said to you several years ago, the best way to see me have a breakdown is to put all the expectations on me and sit back and don’t participate. Or maybe even criticize. None of us can do all the work of the body by ourselves. And sometimes the ones who are criticizing are the very ones who have strengths who could come alongside to help leaders and others to be stronger, working as a team. Now, I have learned not to take on false expectations of doing it all, but you get my point.

We are a body! What would it be like to be a body where all of the parts looked at the right foot and said, “hey it’s all on you! We’re not going to do anything.” “Hey right foot, we’re hungry!” Or “Hey right foot let’s go into the other room.” One foot can’t move a limp body. Or “Hey right foot, the ear has an itch can you scratch it?” What can a foot do by itself??

No, we are a body. And when every part is functioning, a body can do all that a healthy body can do. And when we are all functioning as the body of Christ, using our gifts, leaders doing their part to minister and to equip the body so that we are all well-rounded – God can do anything through us. Amen?

Paul says this in Ephesians 4:15-16 – “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.” Notice the phrase – “when each part is working properly.” That’s all of us. Then, the body grows and builds itself up.

In terms of our focus, everyone can contribute to outreach on some level. Leaders, leading and equipping; evangelists and others with outreach gifts doing what they are empowered to do; and each one of us being well-rounded, reaching out as there is opportunity, praying for the lost and supporting those with special gifts and callings.

And then God can do a great work here among us.

William Higgins

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Next week is our baptism and recovenanting service! And as a part of this I am highlighting two different parts of our church covenant. Reminding us what we have and are committing ourselves to.

  • Last week we looked at Christian fellowship, how we are related as a family in Jesus and then how we are to relate to each other, to care and support each other, and how this takes an investment of our time.
  • Today our topic is Christian work, using our gifts and talents to serve God and do the work of the kingdom.

Let’s begin by remembering a foundational truth –

We are the body of Christ

So we are working with an analogy here, between the church and the human body. The human body is one, but is made up of many parts. In the same way the body of Christ is one, but is made up of many parts. This analogy shows up in Romans 12:4-5 – “4For as in one body we have many members . . . 5so . . .” with the body of Christ.

Christ is pictured as the head. Ephesians 5:23 says, “Christ is the head of the church, his body.” And we are the members of his body. 1 Corinthians 12:27 says, “now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.”

We learn several things about working for God from this image of the body of Christ:

1. Each one of us has gifts

Just as a body has an eye that sees, a foot that walks, an ear that hears, a mouth that speaks – so in the body of Christ we each have a place, a function, a role to play.

By creation we all have natural abilities – music, leadership, creativity, social skills, business expertise ands so forth. And then beyond natural talents we all also have spiritual gifts – ways that the Spirit can work through us, given to us by God at our conversion.

Regarding these spiritual gifts, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Paul names some of these in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10. “For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 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.”

Each one of you has a gift or gifts from God, to use to do his work.

2. Our gifts are different

As Paul says, “the members (of the body of Christ) do not all have the same function” – Romans 12:4. And he says, we have “gifts that differ according to the grace given to us” – Romans 12:6. Each one of us in unique.

3. All the gifts are needed for the body to work

Sometimes we focus on certain gifts and say, “Oh, I don’t have that one – I’m not needed; I’m not a part.” But for any body to function, all the parts need to be working.

Paul talks about this in 1 Corinthians 12:14-19. “For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be?”

Your gifts are needed; your contribution is crucial. Think of a human body – when parts stop working, it’s not a good thing! So it is when we hold back, or don’t contribute in the body of Christ.

Here’s a question to ponder. Are there any age restrictions on contributing to God’s work? This is what I tell the young people I work with, if you’re old enough to be baptized, you’re old enough to work for God. And I would say this to those among us who are older, if you’re young enough to be of sound mind, you’re young enough to work for God.

As long as we are able, we are to do our part.

4. All the gifts need to be working in unison for the body to work

With all of our differences in gifting, we need to work together, not separately, for the body to function.

Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 12:20-26. “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

We are a team. And all are to be honored for their contribution – the one up front and the one working behind the scenes; the one in leadership and the one not in leadership. Because without all of us working together, the body loses its capacity to function.

So my exhortation to you today is –

Use your gifts and do God’s work!

Romans 12:6 says, “Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.” This is the whole message today. Let us use our gifts to do God’s work. We want to be a church where everyone uses their gifts; where everyone is doing God’s work.

So find what your gifts are and put them into practice. Find what gives you energy and life; what brings joy to you as you do it. And focus on this in your work for God.

But also just doing things that need to be done. You don’t have to have a gift or a calling to wash dishes, to wash dishes, when the dishes need to washed. You don’t have to have a gift or a calling to pick up trash on the church grounds, to pick up trash, when the trash needs to be picked up.

To use the language of Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might . . .”

Now, if you are already busy doing the work of the kingdom – blessings to you!!! Thank you!!! May you find joy and satisfaction in it now and may the Lord say to you on that day, “Well done, good and faithful servant . . . enter into the joy of your Master” – Matthew 25:21

But if you have some room in your life to work for God, or to do so even more, I invite you to consider several possibilities here at Cedar Street right now. . ..

William Higgins

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