5-6-18 Lesson 22
Father, we’re grateful for this morning, grateful today and grateful for the work that You’re doing in all of our lives. We’re grateful for Your church, grateful for the Word of God, the ministry of the Holy Spirit to us and I do ask, Father, that the Holy Spirit would be illuminating to us truth that You would have us to learn so that we might continue to grow and develop into the full stature of Christ. And if there’s anybody here that comes here today that is unsaved I ask that the Spirit would convict them of their need to trust in the Savior for the Word of God says “today is the day of salvation.” And we ask that You’ll do that great work of conviction. And the rest of us that are saved help us to continue to grow in spirit and truth, particularly as we partake of the Lord’s table today and fellowship following the service. We’ll be careful to give You all the praise and the glory. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said… Amen!
Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to 1 Samuel chapter 16 and verses 13-14. And in this Sunday School class we’re continuing to deal with the whole issue of the church, the issue of ecclesiology. And I wasn’t here last week so I hope you enjoyed Pastor Jim’s material. I heard a few yes’s Jim, so that’s a good sign, amen!
But as we have tried to explain the church basically has three primary functions; it’s to glorify God, edify the saints and fulfill the great commission. And we’re spending just a little bit more time on number 2 here, edification of the saints. And we’ve seen that God has given a spiritual gift to the church called the gift of pastor-teacher. And the pastor-teacher is to teach the Word of God so that the listeners, the hearers, may be adequately equipped for every good work. So if that’s not happening in a church you really don’t have a church. Amen! You can call it whatever you want to call it but it’s not church.
And there’s the famous passage in Ephesians 4:11-16 indicates why the gift of pastor-teacher is in operation. It’s to build up the saints for their work of service. [Ephesians 4:11-16, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ;  until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.  As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming;  but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.”]
And you might be saying to yourself well how do I know what my work of service is in Christ as I’m being built up? Well, that’s largely determined by what your spiritual gift or gifts are. Normally the issue of spiritual gifts is covered under pneumatology, the doctrine of the Spirit, but we’re making an exception to that rule, we’re covering them under ecclesiology because the church is going to live or die, basically, in a local environment, depending on whether believers use their gifts to help the body of Christ or not. So spiritual gifts are very important to the life of the church.
Paul, the apostle, in 1 Corinthians 12:1 says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” And over in Ephesians 4:7-8 Paul later would write, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it says, ‘WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.” And this is in a context where Paul is describing the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Christ. And part of that, the benefits that were procured because of what Jesus did for us 2,000 years ago, is the manifestation of spiritual gifts in His church. So spiritual gifts are part of the grace package that Christ’s death has accomplished. We have many benefits because we are “in Christ” by way of faith. And one of those benefits is the manifestation of spiritual gifts.
So because of the importance of spiritual gifts to the development of the church we’re trying to, in this section of our study, ask and answer four questions about spiritual gifts. Number one, what are some general observations about spiritual gifts? Number two, are all the spiritual gifts for today? Number three, what are the spiritual gifts as outlined in the Bible? And number four, how do we discover our own unique area of gifting?
So we focused the last time I was with you and this morning on number one. We were in the process of making eighteen observations about spiritual gifts. Now numbers 1-11 we already covered, and we’re going to cover 12-18, strike that, 12-19 because I found another one last night that I wanted to include this morning. So let me just sort of go over the observations that we have covered and let me sort of highlight a few things that perhaps we missed last time.
General observations about spiritual gifts. Number one, spiritual gifts are Spirit empowered abilities to serve God in a special way. So God has called us to service and how exactly you serve Christ depends on how He has gifted you. Number two, spiritual gifts are sovereignly bestowed by God Himself. And I had you, last time, look at a couple of verses; one was 1 Corinthians 12:11, it says, “But one and the same Spirit works all things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.” The Greek verb for “wills” is boulemai. Hebrews 2:4 says “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” The Greek noun for will is thelēsis.
So at some point there was a conference call, a skype meeting between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And when the three got together and met they made a sovereign determination as to who would get which gift. So your gift and gifting has already been determined by the will of God. A school can’t give you a gift, a diploma can’t give you a gift, the only thing a school can do is sharpen your skills in your area of gifting. A church can’t give a spiritual gift, the only thing a church can do is recognize a gifting in a person and try to channel them in the right direction.
Number three, every believer has at least one spiritual gift. I had you look at many passages to prove that but one of them is Ephesians 4:7, it says, “But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ” and it goes on in verse 8 and talks about how Christ gave gifts to men. So every believer has at least one spiritual gift, probably I would guess most believers have more than one because certain gifts seem to run in tandems, like knowledge and teaching seem to go together, administration and leadership seem to go together, etc. So the ministry does not just belong to the preacher and the piano player; it belongs to the people of God. And a church basically rises or falls based on whether people step up and use their area of gifting to help the body of Christ. This is the design of God.
Number four, spiritual gifts, believers obtain their spiritual gifts at the point of salvation. They are called spiritual gifts for a reason—they are manifestations of the Holy Spirit, Hebrews 2:4. [Hebrews 2:4, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”]
And when do you receive the Holy Spirit as a New Testament Christian? At the point of faith alone in Christ alone. So that’s the moment the Spirit takes residence in you and at that point gives you a certain spiritual gift and/or gifts. And one of the exciting things to discover in the Christian life is exactly how God has wired you. The process of discovery sometimes takes some time but the gifting is there, at least at the point of salvation.
Therefore, number five, spiritual gifts are not always the same thing as natural abilities. And we saw the difference between natural talents determined at physical birth and spiritual gifts determined at spiritual birth. But since God is the giver of both sometimes He takes a natural ability and re-channels it in an area of special service under the rubric of spiritual gifts.
Number six, spiritual gifts are given in order to edify or build up the body of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” And all of those verses we saw last time demonstrate that. So gifts really are not given so much for the gifted person as much as they’re given for the purpose of blessing somebody else.
And this is a pattern of God going all the way back to the Book of Genesis. God blesses people so they can be a blessing to others. Remember what God said to Abram in Genesis 12:2? He said “I will bless you” and the verse doesn’t stop there, does it? It says, “And so you shall be a blessing;” To who? Verse 3, “…in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.” [Genesis 12:2, “And I will make you a great nation, And I will bless you, And make your name great; And so you shall be a blessing;  And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”]
So God blessed Abram for the purpose of being a blessing to the rest of the world; that’s the pattern of God. So when God gave you a spiritual gift He didn’t just have in mind you, He had in mind all the people that would be reached through your area of gifting.
Number seven, spiritual gifts are very diverse. We saw that in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6. [1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.  There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.”] There is tremendous variety on how God uses these gifts. I mean, you think about the gift of teaching. Think of all the different ways you can be a teacher. We think a teacher is someone behind a pulpit. Well, that’s just one area. But over in Acts 18:26 you have Priscilla and Aquila who took Apollos aside and began to explain to him the way of God more accurately. [Acts 18:26, “and he began to speak out boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”] So here the Holy Spirit is using a husband and wife team in the area of teaching, not so much behind a pulpit but in private conversation.
So the gift of teaching comes out in many different ways. It can come out in writing. Where would we be today if Paul hadn’t expressed his gift of teaching in the thirteen letters that we have in the Bible called the Pauline epistles? I mean, here we’re still being blessed by his teaching 2,000 years later because he taught not just one way but he taught through written format. So that’s just an example of how much variety there is in these spiritual gifts. We don’t have a “one size fits all” equation with God.
Number eight, spiritual gifts represent different manifestations of God’s grace. 1 Peter 4:10. [1 Peter 4:10, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”] I tried to show you last week it kind of gives you the picture of a rainbow, multicolor, technicolor, and every time someone begins to use their spiritual gift [can’t understand word] another color is added in the rainbow. This is why Satan doesn’t want you to use your gifts because he wants to make the color unattractive. I mean, a rainbow is not much fun to look at if it’s just one color. Right? What makes rainbows so interesting is they’re multicolored and that’s what happen in the body of Christ metaphorically when each of us begins to faithfully deploy what God has given us.
Number nine, no single believer possesses all the gifts. Paul says, “All are not apostles are they? All are not prophets are they?” And he goes on like this for a couple of verses. [1 Corinthians 12:29, “All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?  All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they?”] And in the Greek when he asks the question like that it’s implying that the answer is going to be negative or no! So we don’t have super human Christians, Superman, Superwoman Christians, we each are gifted in one, two, sometimes three ways, some are gifted in even more than that but nobody possesses every single gift which means we have to depend upon each other.
Number ten, God uses spiritual gifts to promote unity in His church. You have a gift I don’t have and I have a gift you don’t have, and guess what? We have to get along with each other, even if you don’t like me and I don’t like you. Right? I mean, that’s a pretty interesting thing that God has done there. If we’re all interdependent on each other based on this issue of gifts we have to, whatever petty differences divides us, we have to work those out because we’re part of a body.
What does Paul say over in 1 Corinthians 12:20-22, “But now there are many members, but one body.  And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”
Number eleven, spiritual gifts are not to be confused with the fruit of the Spirit. And I gave you last time the example of the Corinthians, where Paul says concerning the Corinthians, “so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift.” [1 Corinthians 1:7, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,”] I mean, when you talk about gifted people that’s what you had in Corinth, gifts of the Holy Spirit were abundant. What was in short supply was the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is who you are; a gift of the Spirit is what you do. The fruit of the Spirit deals with character; gifts of the Holy Spirit deals with abilities. And we think that a lot of people, because they’re gifted they should automatically be advanced in ministry and when you look at the qualifications of elders and deacons what you’ll discover is Paul says not so fast.
1 Timothy 3:1-13, you have to look at a person’s character. And as you go through the qualifications of elders and deacons in 1 Timothy 2:1-13 Paul doesn’t spend a lot of time, if any, speaking of talent of people. He spends it dealing with character issues. So fruit of the Spirit is things like this: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. [Galatians 5:22, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”] That’s character. That’s the fruit of the Spirit. Gifts of the Spirit are abilities. So you have a very sad situation in many places where you have gifted people that don’t really have Christ-like character. And so we ought to be careful not to confuse these two concepts. I believe that catches up from last week.
So this takes us to number 12, the twelfth observation about spiritual gifts, this is why I had you open up to 1 Samuel 16:13-14, spiritual gifts are not always the same as an office. An office is a recognized position within a church. And we would hope that the people occupying that office have the gifting to be there but that’s not always the case. I’ve run into situations where people have an office but no gifting and I’ve run into other situations where people have a gifting but no office. In fact, the gentleman that led me to Christ back in 1983, he was 27 years old at the time, he had no pastoral title. He didn’t even have a theological education. In fact, at that time he was working for Sears and this guy was probably one of the most gifted people I’ve ever run into in the area of evangelism, in the area of mercy, and in the area of shepherding. Now over the course of time his life has changed and he now, to my understanding, is involved in formal leadership within a church. But you see, he had those abilities long before he was recognized by any licensing board of denomination or anything like that.
In fact, notice, if you will, 1 Samuel 16:13-14, it says, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon David from that day forward. And Samuel arose and went to Ramah.  Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD terrorized him.”
So the Spirit comes upon David and leaves Saul. That happened in 1 Samuel 16; David is not enthroned over the nation until much later, after Saul’s death. David doesn’t come to power until 2 Samuel 1:2, right in there. All the way from 1 Samuel 16 to the end of the book David has a gifting of some kind, in the Old Testament sense of the word, but he had no office. And Saul was the exact opposite, Saul was in the office but the gifting in the Old Testament sense had been taken away from him. So very clearly from that verse you can have a gifting with no office and you can have an office with no gifting. And so the two are not always the same.
Number 13, spiritual gifts are not the same as a sphere of influence. Spiritual gifts are abilities; Spirit influence is an ability to reach people through that gif and you can be gifted but you can have no audience. You could be gifted but have nobody to minister to. How do I know that? Because the apostles… would you say the apostles were gifted? I would think so. What were they always asking for? That God would open a door. Why were they asking for God to open a door? For opportunity because they wanted the opportunity to use the gifting they had to minister to other people because the two are not always the same. So God did a work in your life when you got saved; He gave you a spiritual gift, but what you need to start asking Him for is the right venue through which to employ that gift.
Acts 14:27 says, “When they had arrived and gathered the church together, they began to report all things that God had done with them and how He had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.”
1 Corinthians 16:9, Paul says, “For a wide door for effectiveness has been opened to me.”
2 Corinthians 2:12 says, “Now when I came to Troas for the gospel of Christ and when a door was opened for me in the Lord.”
Colossians 4:3 says, “Praying at the same time for us as well, that God will open to us a door for the Word.
Revelation 3:8 Jesus says, “’I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut….”
So once you discover your gifting, which has already been done in you, you have to start praying for the right door to open for that gift to be used. And you want the doors to open for you that God opens because spiritual gifts and the sphere of influence are not always the same thing. In fact they’re not the same thing.
Which takes us to number 14, spiritual gifts this side of eternity are irrevocable, which is a term from contract law meaning once an offer is made in a contract and it’s accepted by the offeree the offer can’t be withdrawn. So Paul, in the Book of Romans, chapter 11, verse 29 says, “for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Now in context Romans 11 is talking about God’s covenant with Israel, how it can’t be withdrawn, but I think you can still take that concept and apply it to the issue of spiritual gifts because these are called, Hebrews 2:4, “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” [Hebrews 2:4, “God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.”]
Question: once you get saved how long is the Holy Spirit in you for? Forever! John 14:16, Jesus says, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever.” It’s very different than what Saul had; he had the Spirit, the Spirit left. That can’t happen to you in the church age. We need not pray Psalm 51:11, “Do not cast me away from Your presence And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.” We don’t need to pray that because we’re living in the church age where there are different rules at work and one of the rules that’s at work is the Holy Spirit is in you forever. So since the Holy Spirit gave you a gift at the point of faith alone in Christ alone that gift cannot be withdrawn. So as long as you are alive God apparently wants to use you, wants to use us for some sort of purpose.
But, don’t let your identity rest on your gifting because Paul says also the day will come when there won’t be any need for spiritual gifts. When is that going to be? When we see Jesus face to face. 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 says, “For we know in part and we prophesy in part;  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.”
Now there’s a debate as to what “the perfect” is, “when the perfect comes” certain gifts will disappear. And this gets into the whole debate with the charismatic movement about what “the perfect” is and I’ll make some comments about that, probably next time we’re together in Sunday School. But everybody agrees, whether they are charismatic or not charismatic, Pentecostal or not Pentecostal, everybody agrees that when you see Jesus face to face, I mean, are you going to need anybody to stand up and preach a sermon? What would you add to it, you’re already seeing Christ face to face.
So one of the errors that we make is we let our identity rest on our gifting. We think we’re important because we have a particular gift when the reality of the situation is in eternity the gift will be unnecessary. But until that point in time comes the gift that you have can’t be withdrawn, if that makes any sense; spiritual gifts are irrevocable this side of eternity.
This takes us to number fifteen, spiritual gifts do not cancel, and this is very important, spiritual gifts do not cancel the basic duties of all believers. Now you might say to yourself, well, God hasn’t given me a gift of giving so I don’t have to give to my local church. God hasn’t given me the gift of evangelism so I don’t need to evangelize anybody. God hasn’t given me the gift of mercy so I don’t need to be merciful. God hasn’t given me the gift of discernment so I don’t need to be discerning.
And this is one of the problems I have with these so-called spiritual gift tests, not that those can’t be helpful. My problem with it is it’s never explained to people that just because you don’t score high in a particular area that doesn’t cancel your responsibility in other areas. And I’ve been in churches where people are asked to do the simplest things, like lock the doors or fold bulletins or count money or maybe clean up a little bit the sanctuary and you get this response: oh, that’s not my gift brother, my gift is not cleaning toilets. Well, I don’t know if any spiritual gift is cleaning toilets but the toilets have to be cleaned by somebody. The floor has to be vacuumed by somebody. Somebody has got to support this ministry or it’s not going to make it financially. And so just because you discover who you are in Christ it doesn’t somehow cancel other basic responsibilities that God has given to every single Christian.
So the analogy that I like to use for this is a softball team. You all played on a softball team before? In the typical softball team everybody gets a turn at bat. Right? But guess what? There are some people that are a lot better at hitting the ball than others. I mean everybody is up there swinging away but some people have the ability to connect and make that thing go over the fence. And people that have the ability to do that we say wow, they’re gifted in that area.
So if you’re exercising your basic duties and responsibilities as a Christian and yet in a particular area you’re able to go way beyond the normal Christian in terms of effectiveness then the Holy Spirit is showing you that that is your spiritual gift. That’s to be your primary emphasis but it doesn’t cancel your basic responsibility as a Christian in other areas. I wish I had the gift of evangelism, which I don’t. But you’ll notice that after every single meeting that we have here on Sunday I still give the gospel. Do I see a lot of fruit in that? Not necessarily, but I do it because when Paul wrote to Timothy, who was gifted in the area of pastor-teacher, he said do the work of an evangelist. And so evangelism is still a responsibility whether we have any particular gifting in it or not. So spiritual gifts, number fifteen, do not cancel the basic duties of all Christians.
Number sixteen, spiritual gifts need development. Just because you have a spiritual gift doesn’t necessarily mean that gift is ready to be used. A lot of times it needs to be developed. So Paul writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6, Timothy was gifted as a pastor-teacher, and he says to Timothy, “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” Now here he talks about the presbytery, which is not the Presbyterians, the presbytery is just the elders; the elders laid hands on Timothy, as you study the two Timothy letters and through that process they discovered that Timothy had the gift of pastor teacher and Paul doesn’t say to Timothy, okay, you’re done. No, he says to “kindle it afresh.” In other words it needs development.
And he writes to Timothy in that same chapter, 2 Timothy 2:15, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” Yeah, you’re gifted in the area of teaching, Timothy, but you have to be diligent in that so you know what it is you’re talking about. So a lot of people ask, should I go to seminary, should I not go to seminary, these kind of questions. Well, that largely rides on what your gifting is because if you’re gifted as a teacher you should pretty much know what you’re talking about. Amen! Does that mean you should go to seminary? That’s between you and the Lord but I can tell you it means this much: you need to be in the area of study; you need to be in a position where you’re learning or reading or however you’re going to do it, and there’s so many ways to do it today, with internet, computers. You should be getting the right teaching so you can properly teach others. So that’s an example where the gift of teaching is going to have to be exercised by someone who is diligent and kindles afresh what God has already given us. So a gift of the Spirit doesn’t necessarily mean it’s ready to be used; in many cases it needs to be developed before it can be deployed, even though it’s there in a person. See that?
Which takes us to number seventeen, spiritual gifts can be neglected. And I think this is probably where about 80% of the body of Christ is today. They have things within them that God has given them to use but they don’t use it. 1 Timothy 4:14 says to Timothy, as Paul is writing, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you.” Now you can’t neglect something unless you possess it. If someone says you’re neglecting your wife, well, that means I have to have a wife to neglect. Amen! Is my wife in here by the way? Okay, no public comments please. So the concept of neglect means you already possess it or else the word “neglect” wouldn’t make any sense. So the gift can be inside of a person yet it could be unused, it could lie dormant. So Paul writes to Timothy and he says, “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery,” the elders. The elders laid hands on Timothy, apparently there was some sort of prophetic utterance or insight that the received from the Lord and the Holy Spirit was marking Timothy as God’s man to be the pastor-teacher over the church at Ephesus. And just because he had that gifting that was recognized by the body doesn’t mean Timothy didn’t have the ability to take that gift and neglect it. So a spiritual gift can be neglected.
Why do people neglect spiritual gifts? Why don’t people use their spiritual gifts? I think there’s basically three reasons for that. You’ll find them in the parable of the talents over in Matthew 25:25-26. Remember Jesus assigned the different talents, which is a monetary sum, to folks and they were to invest it and when he was going to come back he was going to hold them accountable for what they did with what they were given. And people say well, aren’t we all equal? No, you’ll notice that the Lord handed out different talents to different people. So as much as I want to I cannot sing like Frank Sinatra, nor in my basketball days could I dunk the basketball like Michael Jordan, because those guys were gifted completely differently than I was. So it’s the same with this issue of spiritual gifts.
I mean, gifts are different, there are different varieties, there are different affects, but at the same time you can take whatever it is God has given you and hide it in the ground, like that one gentleman did in the parable of the talents. And when he took his talent and hid it in the ground he gives his reason why he did that, because the Lord came back and said what did you do with what I gave you? And this is what this man said: [Matthew 25:25] “I was afraid,” that’s reason number one, “and I went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.  But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked,” that’s reason two, “lazy slave,” “lazy” is number three, “you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.” In other words, you should have done something, at the very least you put it in the bank and get interest on it. But this gentleman, individual, didn’t do that and he gives his three reasons why he didn’t do it.
Number 1, fear, “I was afraid.” That probably is the reason why so many people never step out in faith and begin to use the things that God has given them. I know this for a fact, because when I was coming of age as a Christian I, to be honest with you was totally 100% terrified of public speaking. By the way, they’ve done surveys and public speaking (next to death) is the second greatest fear in people. Do you realize that? And we use the word phobia today, but what I was going through was just that. I mean, I would get up and literally my hands would start shaking like this. It was something I hated to do. I didn’t want to do it, and I hated God even more because I felt he was calling me to do it. Which, by the way, is one of the ways you can discover your gift; if there’s something the Lord keeps bothering you about, over and over again and you keep pushing it away, chances are that’s the area that you’re supposed to be in. So I would literally, this would be around college age, 18-21, right in there, I would go into classes and if I looked on the syllabus that there was some kind of oral report, oral presentation that was part of the class I would do everything within my power to drop the class and take it with somebody else that didn’t require that because this was a fear that I had. And I didn’t start crashing through that fear barrier until I took a speech class. And I said to myself, well, this is really getting embarrassing, I mean I don’t want to public speak and yet almost without variation when someone would get sick in Campus Crusade they wanted me to get up and talk which I didn’t want to do.
I had to get over this and so I took this speech class and of all the classes I ever took in college that’s really the one that helped me more than any other. And I got up and did my talk and the professor wrote on the paper, you know they grade you, he wrote down the time that I was up talking and it said, “six minutes and forty-seven seconds.” Now you guys laugh at that because I talk a little longer than that today. But I was astonished that I could stand up in front of a class for six minutes and forty-seven seconds. So that was one of the things that the Lord used to sort of push me onward. Which is sort of funny today because all I really do, for the most part, I mean that’s not all I do but most of the things I do relate to public speaking. So apparently God had that design on my life; I had that gifting at the point of spiritual birth, but I was… I would say from age 16 when I got saved probably to age 22, 23, there’s seven years there where that gift was dormant and unused simply because of the issue of fear. And apparently fear is not an excuse because when this guy that hid his talents because he was afraid Jesus doesn’t say okay, you have a phobia, that’s okay, He calls him wicked and He calls him lazy.
2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline.” If you’re feeling anxiety or fear about something I can tell you this much; that’s not from God, that’s not the Holy Spirit. That comes from the devil, that comes from your fallen nature, that comes from the world system but it doesn’t come from God! And when you’re afraid to do something you need to just acknowledge positionally that God has not given you a spirit of fear and to step out in faith.
You can’t discover your spiritual gifts until you step out in faith and try something. And we’re so afraid of failure that we stay on the side of the beach, there on the Sea of Galilee, and don’t get out and walk. Remember what Jesus said to the disciples? Come out and join me on the water. And the only one that I can think of that took him up on the offer was Peter, and everybody badmouths Peter because he sunk. I mean he was good as long as he was walking in faith but then his eyes got off the Lord and onto the wind and the sea and the waves and he started to sink and everybody jumps all over Peter’s case. But think about this. Where were the rest of the disciples? Where were the other eleven? I mean why was Peter the only guy that walked out? I think the rebuke, if you want to rebuke someone don’t rebuke Peter, at least he gave it a shot. Rebuke these other guys that were too afraid to do anything.
So “I was afraid” and Jesus said “You wicked and lazy slave,” [Matthew 25:25, “’And I was afraid, and went away and hid your talent in the ground. See, you have what is yours.’”  “But his master answered and said to him, ‘You wicked, lazy slave, you knew that I reap where I did not sow and gather where I scattered no seed.”] Now “wicked” is self-centered. A lot of times we’re just too busy doing our own thing to be bothered with the work of God. And so narcissism, self-absorption, dedication to the sin nature, all of these things keep people from using their gifts.
And a lot of folks, verse 26, are just plain lazy because it takes work. You know, if you guys, my wife sees it, if you saw, I’m not boasting in myself, I mean, I’m nothing were it not for Christ, but if you saw the amount of work I go through to try to understand passages, teach passages correctly, you would probably be tired just watching me study. I’m tired just thinking about it. But the reality of the situation is when you use a gift, particularly the gift of teaching, where James 3:1 says let few of you presume to be teachers, knowing that they “will incur the stricter judgment.” [ James 3:1, “Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment.”] You can’t effectively use that gift as a lazy person.
So whatever your area of gifting is you have to understand that it’s going to require some sweat, it’s going to require some diligence, it has to require some effort and so a lot of people simply don’t use their gifting because they’re afraid or they’re wicked or they’re lazy. So spiritual gifts very clearly can be neglected for those three reasons.
This takes us to number 18, spiritual gifts can be abused. How do I know that? I know that because the church at Corinth was gifted. Paul says to the church at Corinth, “so that you are not lacking in any gift. [Corinthians 1:17, “so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ,”] There was not a spiritual gift available that wasn’t flowing in Corinth.
Now watch this order in the Bible very carefully, particularly the New Testament letters to the Corinthians. Paul deals with the issue of spiritual gifts in Corinth and their proper use in chapter 12, that’s where he deals with the body concept, we are all different parts of the body. And he deals with spiritual gifts in another chapter, very close by, chapter 14. And this is where he deals with the gifts of prophecy and tongues, don’t talk in tongues publicly without an interpreter. And prophets shouldn’t prophesy over each other, they ought to wait their turn.
Watch this very carefully, spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 12; spiritual gifts, 1 Corinthians 14. Does anybody know what chapter comes in between 12 and 14? Chapter 13! Does anybody know what chapter 13 is about? That’s the famous love chapter. I mean, you already know the chapter, love is patient, love is kind, love is not jealous, love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly, it does not seek its own, it is not provoked, it is not take an account when wrong, (wow, that one hurts), does not rejoice in unrighteousness but rejoices in truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails, but where there are gifts of prophecy they will be done away with. If there are tongues they will cease, if there is knowledge it will be done away with.
Why in the world would Paul, in a section, chapters 12-14 where he deals with the subject of spiritual gifts, all of a sudden very strangely start talking about love? Well the answer is what was going on at Corinth is people were gifted but there was no fruit of the Spirit of love in how they were exercising their spiritual gifts. Apparently they were exercising their spiritual gifts for purpose of narcissism, self-promotion, maybe they were doing it in an angry way, a retaliatory way, and so Paul, in that very deep discussion he gives on the issue of spiritual gifts inserts the concept of love. And to me that opens the door to the reality that spiritual gifts can be abused. It is very easy to get your eyes off, not what you’re doing for Christ but why you’re doing it. We have to watch our motives very, very carefully. And we have to understand that these gifts are to be used in love because Paul says at the second coming, the day is going to come where the gifts will disappear. But what will always remain? Love. In 1 Corinthians 13:13 he says, “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” A day comes where the gifts disappear. I think that’s related to the second advent. A day comes when… watch this, faith and hope disappear. What is faith? Faith is trusting what you can’t see. Right? Hebrews 11:1, [“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”] When you see Jesus face to face you don’t have to exercise faith anymore because you’re going to look at Him; you’re no longer trusting in something you can’t see. When you see Jesus face to face you’re not going to have to hope any more. What is hope? It’s an expectation of a coming reality. Well, in the second coming Jesus is face to face; no need for faith any more. No need for hope any more. No need for spiritual gifts any more. But what will always continue? It starts with an “l”, love always continues. So that’s why Paul says you Corinthians, you’re focusing on gifts but you ought to be focusing on love because the way you’re using these gifts is unloving.
You know, a lot of people pull this one, well, if I don’t get my way in this church I’m taking my offering money and I’m taking my sphere of influence and I’m taking my gifting and I’m going to leave and I’m going to go down the street to a church that does things my way and I will employ myself over there. And they kind of use their gift as like they’re holding the rest of us hostage. And this happens over and over and over again in pastoral ministry. And the moment it happens you say to yourself, you just took your eyes off the prize, you’re being selfish, self-centered, narcissistic, rude, demanding, and you’ve forgotten why God gave you that gift to begin with.
So gifts can be very clearly abused and misused, or else the insertion of the love chapter in a spiritual gift’s context wouldn’t make any sense.
This takes us to number 19, and this is the last observation. Awareness of spiritual gifts render us (watch this very carefully) accountable to each other (I added that clause “to each other”) to each other and to God. The moment you begin to feel comfortable in terms of how God has wired you is the moment you become accountable to your fellow members of the body of Christ and to God Himself. Why is that? Because why are the gifts given? To edify the church. 1 Corinthians 14:12 says, “So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church.” Once you discover your area of gifting you start to understand that you know what? Those folks over there have something that I can give them for the development of their church, which makes you, in a certain sense, accountable to your fellow members of the body of Christ to exercise that gift.
But even more important than that is you become accountable to God because what are spiritual gift? 1 Peter 4:10 describes them as a stewardship. 1 Peter 4:10 says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good” what? “stewards of the manifold grace of God.” What is a steward? A steward is not an owner but a manager or a caretaker. To quote that great theologian, Rush Limbaugh, and Rush Limbaugh actually said some things that are actually biblically true. Do you guys know that? Don’t throw rocks at me, whether you like him or dislike him one of the things he says is he talks about talent on loan from God. I used to listen to him on the radio and say that was the most arrogant thing I’ve ever heard—talent on loan from God? But actually that’s a very biblical thing when you think about it. You have in the area of a gifting talent that’s not yours; you don’t even determine whether you would receive, it was determined by God Himself. So it’s yours but it’s really not yours. You’re the steward. Who does it ultimately belong to? God.
Now what do you do as a steward? You manage on behalf of somebody else. And how do you do that? 1 Corinthians 4:2 says, “In this case moreover it is required of stewards that one be found” what? “trustworthy” or faithful.” The moment you discover what it is you have and how God has wired you in the area of spiritual gifts is the moment you’ve got to start coming to the realization that what you have is not yours, it’s loaned to you temporarily. And since God is the giver of these things the day will come where He will actually hold people accountable for how they deploy what they have.
So with spiritual gifts we have three basic responsibilities: discover, develop and deploy. And we’re going to be talking about how you discover your area of gifting a couple weeks down the road. But I want you to understand something, God one day is going to hold you accountable as a church age believer at the Bema Seat judgment of Christ—what did you do with what I gave you? That’s an accountability that we’re all destined for. It’s not an accountability to determine salvation; it’s an accountability to determine what? Reward!
Matthew 25:19 says, “Now after a long time the master of those slaves came and settled accounts with them.” What’s the “long time”? It’s the interadvent age; it’s the time period between the two comings of Christ. That’s the interim age we’re living in, where we have these things and God’s expectation is that we would invest these things on His behalf. Well, why do I need to do that? Because after a long time, and I think a “long time” is pretty much a short time now because we’re living in the 21st century. Jesus can come back at any minute. Of course the rapture could have happened 2,000 years ago; it can happen for every generation but I’ll tell you this much folks, we’re one day closer than we were yesterday. 2018 is a lot closer than 2017. I mean… I don’t want to start talking about this or I’ll bust the clock but I just am astonished at the things that are happening in our world and how fast the end time scenario is happening.
I mean, do you realize… here I go [laughter] that there is, I think it’s in one of the countries of the world and I don’t want to give the country because I don’t remember if I’ve got the right one, but it’s all on the internet and you can find it, there is a full blown retina scan where you, unless you’re fingerprinted or your retina in your eye is scanned you can’t do what? Buy or sell. My goodness, I’ve read that somewhere in the Bible. Isn’t that over in Revelation 13:16-18 where no man could buy or sell unless he receives a mark on their right hand or their forehead. [Revelation 13:16-18, “It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads,  so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name.  This calls for wisdom. Let the person who has insight calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man. That number is 666.”]
I’m not saying that this scanning thing that they have is the end product of the mark of the beast but doesn’t it look like the technology is moving in that direction? So the coming of the Lord for His church has to be very near in terms of the pretribulational rapture. And what’s going to happen at the point of the rapture? You’re translated, you’re brought up into heaven and God says at the Bema Seat Judgment, what did you to with the spiritual gifts that I gave you. So we have to live like this with the attitude of expectancy and accountability.
Romans 14:12 says, “So then each one of us” not some us, “each one of us will give an account of himself to” who? to the Sugar Land Bible Church elder board? It doesn’t say that. “to God.” See that? So the discovery of spiritual gifts is an exciting thing but you have to understand that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” He who is faithful in the little things will be faithful with what? “much.”
[Matthew 25:21, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23, “His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” Luke 16:10, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much.”]
The moment you start to move in this area of spiritual gifts is the moment you have to understand that your accountability just shot up. So I hope you enjoyed those 19 observations about spiritual gifts. Next time we’re together we’re going to deal with a very neutral tame topic that nobody disagrees on (I’m being facetious there)—are all gifts of the Holy Spirit for today? And I’ll try to be fair to both sides and also give you where the differences of opinion lie on that and where we stand here at Sugar Land Bible Church.
All right, I’m going to stop talking, we’ve got time for a question or two.