Friday, January 28, 2011

Don't Squander Your Gift - Part II

Last time, we stressed that every born-again believer has been given a spiritual gift, and we stressed that the purpose of spiritual gifts was for the profit, or benefit, of all. today, let's try to define what a spiritual gift is. Lewis Sperry Chafer gives a really good definition. He was the founder of the Dallas Theological Seminary and author of a massive eight volume systematic theology. The way he defined a spiritual gift was as follows:
"A gift in the spiritual sense means the Holy Spirit doing a particular service through the believer, and using the believer to do it."
Did you understand that? God gives every believer a spiritual gift, sometimes several, and this gift is a supernatural endowment of God's Holy Spirit used as a divine means of ministering to one another. When the Holy Spirit wants to work through you, He does so by giving you a spiritual gift, or an ability to do something, and then He empowers your effort at using your gift.

I think I'm trying to make this too complicated. It really shouldn't be. It's not some unfathomable secret doctrine or anything. All a spiritual gift is, is a special ability to do ministry. God gives that ability to us so we can do the work He asks us to do. It really is that simple.

I often use Ephesians 2:8-10 as the best illustration of the relationship between faith and work. Verses 8-9 say,
"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, least anyone should boast."
Amen! We're saved by God's grace alone - Thank You, Jesus! It is all about what Jesus has done for us by dying on the cross of Calvary to pay the judicial penalty for our sins. Nothing we could have done, no amount of good works or keeping the law, could have ever saved a one of us. But God's grace did! That's what He did for us. But what can we do for Him? We can work for Him.

The Gospel Herald once published a story about a man who made it to the top of his profession. As he was looking back over his long and successful life, he thought about all the things that helped shape him and make him the man he became. He remembered the one single event that most impacted his life - an event that left him changed forever - and it was this:

One day as a young boy he went swimming alone, and he got in trouble. He was out too far, and he was at the point where he was too exhausted to swim any longer. He struggled to keep his head above water, knowing that drowning was inevitable without help. He was in a panic, thrashing about and at the point of giving up. It was then that a total stranger passed by, saw his predicament, and swam out to rescue him.

After the man had deposited him safe on shore, he turned to leave. The boy cried out, "Thank you for saving me." The man turned back and replied, "You're welcome, son. See to it that you are worth saving." That line stuck with him. "See to it that you are worth saving." That's the whole point.

God saved us by grace when we were without hope. Now, what are we going to do to make ourselves worth saving? Don't take this too far, or ever think we can repay God for His grace. Don't ever make salvation about merit. That's not it at all. But what can we do for God? How can we ever say, "Thank You?"

That's what Ephesians 2:10 is about. It says,
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them."
That's what we can do for God. We can work for Him.

But imagine that! God created us for, not just any good works, but works that He planned and laid out "before hand," - before He ever gave us eternal life or even life in our mother's womb. God prepared specific work for us to do. God picked out tasks for you to do, and nobody else.

But that's a scary thought. How can we accomplish what God has asked us to do? The cry of most Christians is similar to the cry of Winston Churchill in World War II, "Give us the tools, and we will finish the job." Well, God has! And those tools are our spiritual gifts.

When God calls you to do a certain task, He always gives you the ability to accomplish it. Your spiritual gift is tailor made for your special assignment. God won't give you one task and then give you a spiritual gift to do something else. God isn't stupid. He knows how to administer. And He has given you just the right gift for the job. First Corinthians 7:7 says, "But every man hath his proper gift from God, one after this manner, and another after that." God perfectly equips you to do exactly what He asks you to do. That's the beauty of this.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Don't Squander Your Gift

Today, were going to take up the topic of spiritual gifts. But before we do that, we need a little encouragement from the Scriptures. In Ephesians 3:20-21, we read:
"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen."
Did that first phrase really make that great a promise? Yes! And the simple truth is, God does these exceedingly abundantly great things through us. God uses His awesome, infinite power to accomplish His program through us, for His glory. We become the tools He uses to accomplish these great things.

But, How does God direct that power in and through us? he works through our spiritual gifts - gifts that He has personally given to each of us who are His children. God gives us these gifts and He expects us to use them.

But unfortunately, spiritual gifts are little known and little used within the church. When people think about them, if at all, it is usually with confusion. We see that in the passage from 1st Corinthians 12:1, "Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant." People are often ignorant of spiritual gifts. Paul said that to the church in Corinth because, quite frankly, they were ignorant, as are most people in the typical church today. The topic of spiritual gifts either is not taught or not taught with clarity.

Just to test this out, Do a quick survey: Do you know what your spiritual gift is? Do you actively use your gift in ministry? Do you even know the definition of a spiritual gift? Very few people can answer, yes, to any of those questions. As a result, spiritual gifts remain a mystery and become divisive in many churches. But God meant for them to be the tools He routinely uses to accomplish His plans.

Satan has effectively confused the issue because spiritual gifts are so effective. They are the key element in God's program. According to Elmer Towns, a Dean at Liberty University and a church growth expert,
"I believe one of the key ingredients to building an effective, growing church is spiritual gifts. the key phrase is 'using people where they are usable.' If every Christian were involved according to his spiritual gifts, he would be used in ministering where he is most usable."
Do you hear that? Your spiritual gift allows you to be used where you are most usable. That means where you are most effective. You will never be able to minister the way God wants you to minister unless you minister through using your particular spiritual gift or gifts.

And, yes, as a born-again believer you have a gift, maybe more than one. You do if you are a believer because look at what it says in 1st Corinthians 12:7, "But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all." The manifestation of the spirit is your spiritual gift, given to you at your salvation by the Holy Spirit. It is given to each one - to every born again believer. None are left out. But why? For the profit of all. It is so that you can use your gift to edify and build up the church.

If you are a born again believer, you have a gift. It has been given to you so that you can use it to minister effectively in the church. The only question is this, do you know what it is and are you using it? If not, that's what these next few blog posts will cover.