Sunday, September 28, 2014

Gifts for Everyone

I love the distance between my birthday and Christmas, it’s perfect.  It divides the year in half, when I was a kid I knew that I would get gifts in June and then again in December.  I always felt sorry for the kids whose birthdays were close to Christmas, not just in December but in November and January.  There was always at least eleven months before you got more stuff. 

Not for me, there were gifts at Christmas and then six months later it the middle of June there were more gifts

I’m not nearly as excited about birthdays these days, I guess that I’d agree with Groucho Marx who said “Getting older is no problem. You just have to live long enough.”  If the downside of birthdays is that you are getting older the upside is you get stuff.

How about you?  Do you like getting gifts?  Sure you do.  We say it’s better to give then to receive but receiving has a lot to be said about it as well.  And there are gifts and then there are gifts, a pair of socks is a gift, but a new BMW convertible, now that’s a gift.  

If you are a Christian then you’ve received the greatest of all gifts because the Bible tells us in the book of Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Now that’s a gift.  That’s not all because we are offered another gift as well after we get that first gift, listen to what Peter tells us in the book of Acts 2:38 Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
But for the believer the gifts don’t stop there.  Because when you come into a relationship with Jesus Christ, not only do you become a child of God, but you become a gifted child.  Maybe you’ve heard people talking about spiritual gifts or the gifts of the Spirit and wondered what they were and how you can get them. 

The answer to both the questions are found in    1 Peter 4:10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.

It’s like God has a gift closet and those gifts are available for each of us and this morning we are going to look at what that means.

1) We All Get a Gift There used to be a time that not everyone at the birthday party received gifts, only the person whose birthday it was got gifts.  Now parents have to spend a fortune on grab bags to make sure everybody gets a gift. “Hey, kid it’s not your birthday, you’ll get your chance.” 
But from the beginning we are told that there is a gift for every believer, that there are no believers who don’t have a gift from the spirit.  There are believers who don’t use the gift or gifts they have been given, but they have all been given at least one.  Remember the scripture that we just read from 1 Peter, God has given gifts to each of you from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 12:6 In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you.
And in 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

Now let’s clarify that your spiritual gift isn’t necessarily your God given talent.  Everybody has natural talents.  Miley Cyrus is an incredible singer, she has buckets of talent and most people would say that she was gifted, others would say other things about Miley but we’re not going down that road. 

But singing isn’t Miley Cyrus spiritual gift it’s her talent.  Talents are what you are born with, spiritual gifts are what you are born again with.  Get it? 

How do I know that because we are told in the scriptures that 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.

and in verse 11 of the same chapter 1 Corinthians 12:11 It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

Well sure you say, but couldn’t the spirit give his gifts to an unbeliever, well he could but he doesn’t.   Listen to Galatians 5:16 So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.
Now in math you may remember that the way we prove a mathematical equation is by reversing it 1+2=3, but only if 3-2=1.  So we can do the same with scripture.  Turn Galations 5:16 around and it says:  If you are doing what your sinful nature craves then you aren’t living in the Holy Spirit.   Listen to what James the brother of Christ wrote in the letter he wrote James 3:12 Does a fig tree produce olives, or a grapevine produce figs? No, and you can’t draw fresh water from a salty spring.
So can a person whose life is not controlled by the Spirit of God exhibit gifts which the Bible plainly tells us are given by the Spirit of God for use in the body of believers, I don’t think so.

2) We All Get Different Gifts The scriptures that we read earlier spoke of believers getting different gifts or special gifts.  The problem is that when anyone talks about the gifts of the spirit most people automatically think that it’s the gift of tongues that’s being referred to.  And that is limiting the power of the Holy Spirit, because in reality there are at least 20 different spiritual gifts listed in the New Testament.  And Paul tells us over and over again that we don’t all get the same gift.  He uses the analogy of a body to represent the Christian church and tells us that each part of the body performs a function that is essential for the body to properly function. 

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that a body that was nothing but eyes would never get anywhere, and a body consisting solely of feet, would never see anything.   We need our eyes to see, our arms to hold, our feet to walk, our ears to hear, etc.   A body without all it’s parts wouldn’t be whole and it wouldn’t matter if you tried to substitute, “Well I might only have one leg but I have three eyes.”  It still wouldn’t be whole.  And so within the family of God, the church, we have people who each have a spiritual gift which is needed, and they aren’t all the same gift.

The gifts most clearly mentioned in the Bible are found in a several different verses and include wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment, tongues, interpretation, apostleship, teaching, helps, administration, encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, evangelism, pastoring, hospitality.  Now I’m not saying that this is an exhaustive list of spiritual gifts, I’m just saying that these are the most clearly defined.  Now we don’t have time to define and deal with each of those gifts this morning, if you want more information do a search for Spiritual Gift Inventory and you’ll find all kinds of resources.

3) We Don’t All Need The Same Gift  Sometimes as children it is natural to compare ourselves with others, I wish I could run like Bob, or I wish I had hair like Suzy or I wish I could sing like Mary.  Come to think of it we never really grow out of making those comparison do we?  Within the Kingdom of God sometimes we put certain gifts on pedestals and people look at them and say wow I wish I had the gift of _____________.   

Now this isn’t a unique problem,  Paul had to deal with it in the church in Corinth and he used the analogy of the body that we spoke of earlier 1 Corinthians 12:14-18 Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part. If the foot says, “I am not a part of the body because I am not a hand,” that does not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear says, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye,” would that make it any less a part of the body? If the whole body were an eye, how would you hear? Or if your whole body were an ear, how would you smell anything? But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.
4) We Have Our Gifts For A Reason  God doesn’t just give us a gift so we won’t feel bad because we didn’t get a gift.  This isn’t a kid’s birthday party, ss believers we are given our Spiritual gifts for a reason. 

The scriptures are very plain that we aren’t given spiritual gifts for selfish reasons, and we’re not given them so we can gloat about them, we are given them so we can serve God’s people, the church.  Listen again to the Bible 1 Corinthians 12:7 A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.  The gifts of the spirit are given to the believer for a very special purpose and that is to advance the kingdom of God.  At this time I need a couple of helpers to hand out ministry involvement sheets.  Plain and simple, each one of us is here for a reason, and each of you who call Cornerstone your home church is here for a reasons.  Maybe you sitting there thinking “I’m not sure if Cornerstone is my home church or not.”  Here’s a hint, if this is where you come to church most of the time it’s your home church. 

Years ago I was pastoring in a different community and there was a gentleman in our church who attended every service, but his home had been a small community 50 kms away.  And it was the church in that community that he gave to, and he never gave much time to our church but if needed he would drive 50 kms and do work around that church. 

And that was wrong, he was being fed spiritually at our church, he was receiving his spiritual care at our church, his children grew up going to our Sunday School and youth group and yet his heart and his money were elsewhere.  That’s like ordering a Big Mac at MacDonalds and paying for it at Burger King.  He was parking on somebody else’s nickel.

Everyone have a form? Good, let’s take a look at them.

4) How We Should Use our Gifts  (We did this with a Drama team as an improve)

Ok, let’s set up a scenario, you’re at a dinner party with seven other people each of who have one of the spiritual gifts listed in the scripture that was read this morning.  You’ve all had a wonderful dinner and you’re just settling back for dessert.  Your hostess is bringing out the tray with all your desserts when she drops it, breaking dishes and scattering dessert all over the floor. 

The response of each person there should be governed by their spiritual gift.  The person with the gift of serving would jump up and say, “Let me help you clean that up” They give practical assistance to fulfill a need.  These are great people to have around because they are always ready to serve. 

The one with the gift of teaching would say “Now the reason that fell was because it was too heavy on one side and it was off balance” Their gift allows them to bring life lessons in such a way as to bring clarity to difficult situations.

The guy with the gift of prophecy doesn’t say anything because he had already said “Don’t bring them all out at once, the tray will be too heavy” Often when we think of someone with the gift of prophecy we think of someone who can tell the future, when in reality it is usually someone who can tell us the consequences of our actions especially in our spiritual life.

The person with the gift of encouragement would say “Hey that’s ok, we didn’t need dessert anyway.”  Don’t you love having someone around who always says the right thing to lift our spirit; the person with the gift of encouragement is there to give positive attitude for the future.

The person with the gift of giving has already excused them self to run over to Tim’s and buy a box of donuts to serve as dessert “I’ll go buy donuts”.  These people don’t ask “how much should I give” but “How little do I need to get by on.”

The one with the gift of leadership is saying “Fred go get a mop, Mary could you and Tom make sure that all the glass is picked up” His or her gift is to cast the vision and get people moving together toward a common goal. 

And the person with the gift of mercy would have their arm around the hostess saying “Don’t feel bad it could happen to anyone.”  The gift of mercy is not the gift of pity, it is the gift of empathy, and it is sensitivity to the feelings of others.  Even though it’s not mentioned in Romans, it is obvious that the hostess had the gift of hospitality.  Now I know that really oversimplifies things, but hey I’m a simple kind of guy right.

Now there are a couple of warnings that need to be issued here.  Don’t use your gift blend to excuse you from doing other things.  Well I haven’t got the gift of hospitality so I don’t invite people over, that may be but don’t forget we have scriptures like
Romans 12:13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
Others say I don’t have the gift of giving so I don’t give.  Uh-huh, we are commanded to give the tithe or 10% if we are a believer, the person with the gift of giving gives over and above that. 

God does not give us gifts to excuse us from doing other things; instead it’s to allow us to go over and above in our areas of giftedness.  Sometimes we need to step outside of our comfort zone in order to remain in obedience to God.  So sometimes even though we may not feel that we have the gift of teaching we may have to teach, or that we don’t have the gift of leadership we may have to lead.  Get it? 

If you were out for your evening walk and saw a house on fire you wouldn’t say, “Well there’s a house on fire, I can’t do anything to help because I’m not a fireman.”  No you’d do your very best to help the people inside and put out the fire until the professional arrived.  If you happened on the scene of an accident and there were those who needed first aid you wouldn’t ignore them because you weren’t a paramedic, you’d do what had to be done until the right person arrived.  Once the experts arrived, you step aside because they were better equipped to deal with the situation.

And so in the work of the Kingdom of God there may be times that you need to step outside of your giftedness in order to meet a need until the right person comes along to meet that need.

There is a great story in the book of Acts.  The Apostle Paul is on his way to Rome when the ship he was on hit a reef and everyone had to abandon ship.  They were in shallow water, close to land so they were able to make their way to shore without any loss of life.
So here they are on the beach at Malta, wet, bedraggled and cold.  And in Acts 28:3 As Paul gathered an armful of sticks and was laying them on the fire. . .
And you are thinking, so?  Paul was probably the most highly educated person on the ship, he had at least the equivalent of our PhD.  He was one of the most highly respected figures in the early church and he was gathering sticks.  You want to know why?  Because right then the sticks needed to be gathered.

The other danger is the danger of transference, or expecting that others should do what you are gifted to do.  You know that what you have to do to be obedient to God and you presume that all believers have to do the same.  So the person with the gift of mercy can’t figure out why others are so callous, well they may not be callous they just might not have the gift of mercy.  Those with the gift of giving shouldn’t expect everyone to feel compelled to give like they do.   Those with the gift of leadership shouldn’t expect everyone to lead.

Bottom line is that you are responsible for your gift and nobody else's and you’re responsible for being obedient to God in using that gift. When you get to heaven, God will ask you what you did with the gift that he gave you.  He’s not going to ask what your spouse did with their gift or what the pastor did with his gift, but you will be held responsible for your faithfulness with your gift.

Can people have more than one spiritual gift?  Sure but there are usually one or two prominent ones.  How do you find out what your gift mix is there are several test out there that you can take, but here’s a simple way, if you enjoy it and you do it well that is probably where your spiritual gifts are.  And the two go together; you can enjoy something and not be good at it. 

I’ve been looking for a place to quote Red Green and this looks like the spot.  Red Green says “You are not good at something just because you enjoy it. Karaoke has proved that. To my way of thinking, you are not good at something because you enjoy it; rather you enjoy something because you are good at it.”

And you can be good at something and really not enjoy it, but when the two come together, it’s magic.  But you won’t know unless you try it.  And here’s my promise to you, if you try a ministry at Cornerstone and it doesn’t fit we’re not going to make you keep doing it. We don’t want you to be doing something just because we need it done, we aren’t interested in jamming square pegs in round holes.  We want you to fit where God wants you and where you will feel fulfilled. 

But at least be willing to try.

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