What I Meant to Say: Spiritual Gifts

Yesterday’s sermon on spiritual gifts was wide ranging and fast paced. Today, I wanted to expound on some points and clarify others. I’ll also try to recap the sermon as best I can for those of you who didn’t make it.

Sermon in a Nutshell
Holy Spirit is the gift. The things we typically refer to as “spiritual gifts” are simply manifestations of Holy Spirit’s work and partnership in our lives. Spiritual gifts are “spiritual” because they are gifts of the Spirit, not because they are mystical or deal with the supernatural. Business, government, art, worship, construction, service, administration – all of these are spiritual gifts alongside prophecy, healing and miracles.

Whenever God gives us a gift, it is always a person – never impersonal power. Spiritual gifts manifest as we partner with Holy Spirit to accomplish some purpose or goal – most often our calling and the good works we were created to do. Holy Spirit is not some generic “power source” we plug into, like plugging in your toaster to an outlet. Holy Spirit has thoughts, feelings, desires, plans, purposes and goals – we have to treat him as we would anyone else and tend to our relationship and friendship if we plan on working together long term.

This principle of “people as gift” is also true in church leadership. In Ephesians 4, Paul says that Christ himself gave to the Church apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. In other words, he gave us people that have very different worldviews, ways of thinking and goals, but who are called to work with one another for the mutual edification and building up of the Body. We are called to receive one another as gifts from God. Someone can be really messed up and still be God’s gift to you. Someone can fall into sin, backslide or otherwise biff it and we are still called to honor them as a gift and rejoice in what they carry in the Spirit. We don’t affirm their sin, but neither do we wash our hands of them until they “get their act together.”

Clarifications
In the midst of my sermon yesterday, I gave a disclaimer that spiritual gifts are not an indicator of spiritual fruit. (I defined fruit as the observable change in character that comes from fellowship with God and being changed into Jesus’s likeness as described in Galatians 5:22.) I said that someone operating at a high level of spiritual gifting does not immediately translate into a high level of fellowship with God.

The example I used and want to clarify is that I said that we don’t often look at someone who is extraordinarily successful in business or government and assume that they are walking closely with God. I then said that we should apply that same skepticism to others operating at a high level of gifting, be it prophesy, healing or signs and wonders. That was poorly phrased and I think left an impression that I didn’t intnd.

What I meant to say is that someone can be used powerfully by God in any area and that doesn’t mean they are necessarily being transformed into His image and likeness, because they are separate issues. As far as business and government, I don’t think you can succeed at a high level in either without God helping you. And I believe that many successful businessmen and politicians do have intimate and vibrant relationships with God.

I also regret using the word “skeptical.” It conveyed the meaning I wanted but with negative undertones. I don’t want us to look at anyone operating at a high level of gifting and assume they aren’t walking with God. I want us to honor, bless and receive everyone. I just want to caution us against the tendency to look at someone on a platform and assume they are perfectly walking things out in every area of their lives. Mark Driscoll could be a perfect example – he is a highly gifted man. He is highly gifted, and also a man. We shouldn’t be so scandalized by his humanity that we forget to receive the really good and true things God has done (and will continue to do!) through him.

A Point I Meant to Make
Because Holy Spirit is the gift, it means that all of the manifestations of the Spirit are available to us as believers. God is certainly more prone to use us in ways that fit our personality, background and call, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be used in other ways. Furthermore, if there is one particular gift that you would love to operate in, I think there is freedom to ask God to use you in that way. I think you can ask, pray and look for opportunities to use that gift and I believe that Holy Spirit will take that into account because I believe God honors and treasures the desires of our hearts.

So please, don’t feel limited or confined by the results of some spiritual gifts inventory or assessment. At best it is only giving you a snapshot of how God is moving in your life at that point in time. Realize and assume that you are going to change and that God is going to use you in different ways at different times.

What all of us need to commit to is being willing to be used by God in any way to meet any need. Because Holy Spirit lives in you, you can be the answer to any problem you encounter. If someone needs encouragement, counsel, healing or help you can do those things – you don’t have to call in an expert. The important thing is that you know the basics of operating in each of those areas so that Holy Spirit can use you and you don’t take yourself out of the game. That is why we teach people the prayer model, basic relational skills like reflective listening, it is why we should be in reasonable shape and practice listening for God’s voice. I believe it is every Christian’s desire to be a useful and profitable servant – and that begins by being willing to do whatever God asks of us.

Last Thought
I want to see our congregation grow and develop in the use of our gifts, whatever they may be. I don’t want anyone to feel inadequate or “less than” for the way God uses them. I want us to celebrate all of the gifts and learn to call them out in one another. And, most of all, I want us to see one another as gifts. God never gives us an ability without an accompanying responsibility to love and serve the people around us. Gifts are for the good of those around us and we are called to strengthen our love for one another. Part of our inheritance is locked away in the people around us – we are called to set them free and build them up so that we can receive what they have to give. As we do that I think we will see a great shift in the life of our community. I think we will see more and more people attracted to Christ, more and more growth and maturity and more and more satisfaction, freedom and joy in our hearts. And that is something I am excited for.

Thanks for reading friends.

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