I Cor.12: Part 2- Opening the Gifts
At Christmas time, we always put all the gifts out under the tree and then hand them out to everyone. Not everyone gets the same gifts, for each gift was selected especially for that person. Our gifts are for our family. As our family has grown, the gifts surround the tree and spill out onto the floor about it. The Holy Spirit distributes gifts; this is the Spirit’s task. The gifts are for family. He comes to every believer and He gives to everyone without exception a gift or gifts of the Spirit. These gifts are waiting for each of us at the foot of the tree, the Cross. The Holy Spirit has selected the gifts He wants each of us to have. The gift was chosen just for each of us, individually. But the gifts are to be shared with others. Remember, God has chosen the time and place we were to be born. He chose our genetic makeup, which produces our temperament and gave us natural talents.
Sometimes, a gift gets thrown out in carelessness with all the gift wrapping, and ribbons, and boxes. Sometimes, someone leaves a gift behind, or never opened it. This was never the intention of the giver. The same is true of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit came into the world, given to each believer for one purpose: to exalt Jesus Christ. In order to do this, the Holy Spirit indwells the believer at the moment of conversion. Remember the statement Jesus made in John 14:20-“…you in Me and I in you.” Such simple words, they can be written and defined by a third grader, yet arranged in this order they represent the most amazing combination. How did Jesus get into me? The Spirit baptizes us into the body of Christ. This is you being placed, immersed in Christ. You are now a new creature. To baptize is to immerse something into something else. Example: a white cloth is immersed into red dye. It has been changed, it is something which did not exist before, and the two have become one. It is now identified by that which it has been immersed into- it is identified as ‘red’ cloth. Having been immersed into Christ, I am a new creature and I am known and identified by what I was baptized, immersed into- I am identified as a Christian. This is what Paul means when he writes “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body…” Our lives are joined with Christ. He becomes our source of existence, He is our life and strength, and we are part of Him. I am in Christ. How did Christ get into us? I am in you, Jesus said. How do you get water into you, coffee, soda, etc.? You drink it and it enters your body and becomes a part of you. Paul wrote- ‘we were all given the one Spirit to drink.’ This is the power by which we are to live. The dual ministry of the Holy Spirit, baptizing us into the body and filling us with the Spirit, so we are both ‘in Christ; and He is in us. The mystery and marvel of the church.
*Now the enemy of the believer is called a thief, and he specializes in identity theft. He wants to steal your identity as a Christian. And today’s culture is more anti-Christian than ever before, making us sometimes reluctant to identify ourselves as Christians.
The Bible tells us we were created by Him and for Him. We were created to be possessed by God. God as our Creator is our rightful owner. Anything which replaces God and possesses us instead of God is an idol. We were born as idolaters. We were born – lost, away from our rightful owner. Isaiah 53: 6 provides us with this illustration: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” After the fall, we were each born with the nature of Adam. A nature which was self-centered wanted and followed its own way.
Like a lost sheep I wandered seeking for that which would satisfy me. The Shepherd came looking for me. Imagine when He found me I had been taken by another who said this sheep is mine. Now the Shepherd is the rightful owner, but this thief says, do you have a bill of sale? Is your brand on this sheep? The thief says this is my sheep,’ finders, keepers, losers, weepers.’ Do you remember the shortest verse in the New Testament? “Jesus wept.” He is a man of sorrows. I will buy my sheep back, says the Shepherd. Which is what Jesus the Good Shepherd did and He paid much too high a price for me. In the parable of the prodigal son, all three items were lost, because they were all three away from their rightful owner, for we were created by Him and for Him. All of the destructive patterns of man entered the human race through sin. We were all born the first time with a rebellious spirit which wanted to determine what was right or wrong for ourselves.
As far back as Genesis we are told sin is crouching at our door, and its desire is for you, but you must master it. The Holy Spirit came to become the One who is in you, who is greater than the one who is in the world. We are given gifts for the common good. To help one another grow up, mature and to overcome the temptations we face each day. We are each gifted in order that we might learn to walk by faith not by sight and teach others how to do the same as the Spirit teaches us.
We are told in the close of Paul’s letter in 2 Corinthians 13 to: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless you fail the test.” (Provide each with a Spiritual Gift test)
So let us examine ourselves. Remember the Potter shapes us. S.H. A. P. E.
Spiritual gift combined with a Heart working with your natural Abilities and your Personality combined with your life Experience. God never wastes anything. He provides all our needs.
The Spiritual gifts listed in Scriptures are somewhat confusing as listed in I Corinthians 12, Romans 12 and also Ephesians 4. They are not easy to define and theologians over the years have come up with lists which vary from 16 -20 +gifts. Some combine gifts and there is overlapping. What is important is how they are used. Remember the Holy Spirit’s main purpose- to exalt Jesus Christ, to lift Him up.
All gifts are needed in the body of Christ. All gifts are equally valid. Some gifts are more apparent than others, but none are more important than others in God’s view.
Let us examine our lists and see how they work together in each of us. Let’s first look at our temperaments and personality.
There are two major categories and four sub-categories from which a number of combinations define our particular personality. There is no one temperament better than another, and each of us are unique because God made us that way. He is our creator. He loves diversity and He loves unity. Our temperaments are inherent, we are born this way. Our personality is an outward expression our temperament and is influenced by our parents, siblings and environment. Character is the real you, the hidden heart. Proverbs tells us ‘as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.’ Character is a result of your natural temperament modified by your childhood training, education, beliefs, principles and motivation. This why we are told as parent to train up a child in the way he should grow and when he is old he will not depart from it.
The two major temperaments are: extrovert and introvert. If you are an extrovert you will be one of two temperaments: sanguine or choleric. If you are an introvert you will be a melancholy or a phlegmatic. You are usually a combination of these and they can be both an extrovert and introvert combination.
A sanguine temperament produces an expressive personality.
A choleric temperament produces a driver personality.
A melancholy temperament produces an analytical personality.
A phlegmatic temperament produces an amiable personality.
Here are the strengths and weaknesses of these types. (And remember, we are never 100% something- we will have a mixture of these types)
Sanguine Strengths: Outgoing, responsive, warm& friendly, talkative, enthusiastic, compassionate. Weaknesses: exaggerates, egocentric, undisciplined, emotional, and unproductive.
Choleric Strengths; Strong-willed; independent, visionary, practical, productive, decisive, leader. Weaknesses: cold& calculating; unemotional, self-sufficient, impetuous, domineering, unforgiving, sarcastic, angry, cruel.
Melancholy Strengths: Gifted, analytical, aesthetic, self-sacrificing, industrious, self-disciplined. Weaknesses: moody, self-centered, persecution prone, revengeful, theoretical, unsociable, critical, negative.
Phlegmatic Strengths: Calm, quiet, easy-going, dependable, objective, diplomatic, efficient, organized, practical and humorous. Weaknesses: unmotivated, procrastination, selfish, stingy, self-protective, indecisive, fearful, worrier.
Eating out with a Sanguine, they are so busy talking with everyone, they have not looked at the menu. When the waiter comes, they begin to talk with the waiter for several minutes. The choleric knew what he was going to order before they ever got there.
The choleric driver passes everyone in front of him or her and darts in and out of traffic always trying to get ahead. The melancholy knows exactly where they are going and how they are going to get there. They have consulted and printed out MapQuest, put in their GPS, and also take into consideration if they will arrive at their destination and require a left turn or right. The sanguine gets lost talking to their passengers, and forgets to make a turn.
The phlegmatic is the perfect mate for the choleric, as when you ask them where they want to go or where they want to eat, they reply, ‘ I don’t care, wherever you want to go…’ The phlegmatic rarely gets angry and is the easiest person to get along with. They possess a dry sense of humor, are kind-hearted and sympathetic. Tend to be a spectator rather than a participant. The decisive choleric is a perfect match for them and they for the choleric. The easy-going phlegmatic counter balances the choleric with their amiable, friendly side to soften the sometimes harsh choleric’s words and actions.
In the business world: a gifted, analytical, melancholy may invent a product or come up with a service or idea; the choleric will develop and organize a business around it to make it successful using a friendly sanguine to sell it to easy-going phlegmatics who want to enjoy it.
Now what is interesting is the old adage- ‘opposites attract.’ This why God made us different we need each other. Diversity and unity.
This is what the church is. It is not just a group of religious people gathered together a couple of times per week to enjoy some singing, preaching, teaching and fellowship. It is a group of people who share the same life, who belong to the same Lord, who are filled with the same Spirit, who are given gifts by the same Spirit and who are to function together to change the world by the life of God.
Listen to what the Lord said about the Tower of Babel and mankind. “But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the men were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, the nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” If this can be true of man without God, what can be possible with God? The Lord asked us a rhetorical question; “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” In Mark 9, Jesus said, ‘all things are possible to those who believe.’ He also told us in John 14, the things He was doing, we would also do and even do greater things, because He was going to the Father. By going to the Father, the Lord Jesus was able to send the Holy Spirit. The One who came bearing gifts and incomparable power and Who was greater than the one in the world.
Do you begin to see if sinful man can unite and use their natural talents and God says nothing will be impossible for them, can you imagine what we can do with the unshakeable faith in the power of what Almighty Sovereign God can do? Nothing is too hard for the Lord. He is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever, Amen. Why can this not be true at West Jackson Baptist? What is holding us back?
There are no insignificant gifts or insignificant members of the body. The big toe is as important as the hand, the ear as the eye and etc. The eye cannot say to the hand, I do not need you. There are those gifts which are more public and apparent and we observe them in the preacher, the musicians, the soloist, the choir, and the teachers. They have visible roles in the meetings we hold during the week. But this is not the work of the church. It is time for our generation to step up and speak out.
THE WORK OF THE CHURCH
Jesus revealed the purpose and the work of the church in the beginning of His ministry. In Luke 4 we read: “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit and news about Him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues and everyone praised Him. “Notice Jesus operated as a man, though He was God in flesh, He lived as an ordinary man filled with, controlled by and empowered by the Holy Spirit. This is why He said we could do what He did, if we were filled and controlled by the Spirit.
Jesus returns to Nazareth where he grew up and on the Sabbath he went into the synagogue and stood up to read. The passage Jesus reads tells us what the work of the church is: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind and to release the oppressed to proclaim the year of the Lord’s Favor.” (Luke 4: 14-19, NIV)
This is the work of the church. The work of the church is to heal the broken-hearted out in the world, to give deliverance to those held captive by their sins, to open the eyes of the spiritually blind, and to preach the good news to the poor, those in despair, whose hearts are broken and feel life is not worth living. Those who are running out of hope who live in fear and desperation.
This is what the Body of the Church has come into the world to do- to encourage and strengthen and help people. To deliver them from their guilt with the good news, that Christ died for them while they were yet sinners. To be a friend to the lonely and come along side those who need our help. It can be physically and spiritually, often combined. Jesus said in Matthew 25 to the sheep at his right hand and says to them: ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom, prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in, I was naked and you clothed me, I was a sick and you looked in on me, I was in prison and you visited me. Then the righteous answer Him, Lord, when did we see you hung and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in or needing clothing and clothe you? Or sick or in prison and got to visit you? The King will reply, I tell you the truth, when you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me.”
This is the work of the church, the Body of Christ. And we come to church to be trained to do the work of the church in the world. We come to church to get ready to fulfill the work of the church, not do the work of the church inside the walls of the church.
Understanding how the Body works and how each of us is given a gift to do that work is important to know. But knowing and not doing is what James cautions against. Faith without works is dead.
The Spirit gives gifts. When we come to the Tree, upon which He was crucified we will find our gift. The Spirit gives gifts. The Lord assigns our ministry within the church. He opens the opportunities. The door He opens for you may be in your neighborhood, your hobby or activity, nursing home, work place, or on occasion just in one of those moments in passing by when you stop to say a word of encouragement to another person. The Spirit gives the gift, the Lord Jesus, the head of the church provides the opportunities to use your gift, and God the Father manifest the gifts. He produces the fruit. He is the Constant Gardener, the owner of the vineyard.
We see the force of the enemy of darkness at work in the world today like never before. The power of the enemy is always at work to control the minds and thinking of people and lead them like lambs to the slaughter into a life of bondage. And we must realize the father of lies is at work changing the way our culture thinks, and as a man thinketh, so is he. We must present the truth with love. We must speak out and stand up and use the gifts God has given us and weapons we have to make sure the truth is not suppressed in wickedness.
This is why I am praying and hoping and excited that 2017 will be the year you discover your gift and where the Lord wants you to use it. So it will truly be the Year of the Lord’s Favor.