Back to our gifts series after an extended delay. To catch back up, in part 2 I was stating that the Spirit-gifts will operate in accord with the Gospel and never in contradiction to it. Paul describes to us that the gifts of God will seek to provide edification to believers and clarity to unbelievers (what they do). Now, I’d like to spend a few paragraphs sharing about how they accomplish the desires of the Spirit.
So, a basic question to answer is simply, what are the gifts for? Without entering a long discourse, we see the Apostle’s teaching repeatedly saying that the gifts are meant for God’s power to be demonstrated in human weakness. In other words, they are meant to meet needs and testify to the glory of God. It seems simple and beautiful enough, and it is.
However, don’t miss the part of God involving human agency. The Lord wants his people to be an active part of them. This isn’t magic fairy dust he is sprinkling on the Church. This is transformed people living and experiencing the active power of God building others up. This is Heaven moving outward and pushing back the Hell-gates.
Accomplishing this purpose, therefore, the Spirit-mediated gifts flow into the church body through people who are faithful to God and faithful in service to others. Where can you see the gifts operate? Right where those who love God are serving others because that is the point where they flow into the Body from Heaven. I believe it is one of the most visible evidences of how “God-is-with-us” and where we see the activity of Immanuel himself.
Service is the point! Take a look at this great paragraph from the Porterbrook Learning material that was teaching on character:
…Spiritual gifts are abused when they are used as an excuse for self-fulfillment or for doing our own thing. The discussion of spiritual gifts in the New Testament is not addressed to individuals. It does not include a call to identify or operate within your gifting. The application in the New Testament is to celebrate the diversity that God has given to his people: humbly to serve other people and humbly to value the contributions of others. Paul does not tell individual Christians to identify their gifting and stick to it. He tells Christians to be servants, looking to the interests of others and modeling ourselves on the self-giving of the cross. More important than highly gifted individuals are individuals who are servant-hearted. [Porterbrook Learning FY-P2 Character: Gospel Relationships, p. 44] (emphasis mine)
Some time ago, I had a man in my congregation who was complaining pretty regularly about people. So one day, he told me that we should shut everything down, gather everybody together, take a survey on the gifts, and re-assign everybody into different places based upon what they responded to the survey. This was his solution to growing the church he desired.
I knew immediately that there was another agenda afoot, but simply, it would have been a net-zero-gain. Think about it. Stop serving – everybody – and while we’re on a spiritual strike, concentrate about what gifts you think you might have. And then, let’s change the whole church around. Character and maturity didn’t matter; neither did the people’s understanding of the gospel, doctrine, or ministry. Also, the Lord’s calling upon lives, humility, leadership, and unity went out the window, and I’m sure a baby in our church sat nervously in the bathwater too.
You see, this man had made an idol out of the idea/notion of gifts and began to demand that his interpretation be the primary litmus test for the whole church. Oh, and by the way, he had been regularly withdrawing himself from service and care opportunities for many months by that point. This is one of the ways that revealed how another agenda was at work. So, there was a longing for the spectacular more than the substantive and this became detrimental in his life. Sadly, it also became the life-direction that he followed — strongly opinionated, low-to-no service, and separated out of community.
Therefore, what we see in the commands of Scriptures is an emphasis upon a life of godly character and sacrificial service. The more we press into and practice holy community, the more we will see the Spirit-gifts and fruitfulness. In the next part, we’ll emphasize the importance of a graciousness that needs to be expressed with one another in the participation of the gifts.