Guidance for Spiritual Gifts – Part 1 – The Gifts and the Gospel

[Note: I took a break from writing for 6 weeks due to travel and suffering from a kidney stone. I realized it’s harder to think and write when a stone is eating your brain to stay alive. However, the Lord really blessed and healed me. You can laugh, cry, and rejoice with me through the story that I wrote here called “My 4mm Miracle.”¬†Thanks for praying through it all with me and also for really missing these articles ūüėČ ]spiritual gifts logo-image

Zest

What a great word to describe the flavor and gusto of a splendid minestrone. Zest literally means an agreeable or piquant flavor imparted to something; anything added to impart flavor, 
enhance¬†one’s¬†appreciation, etc.¬†Notice two key words in this definition —¬†impart & enhance.¬†Continuing with the Italian simile of the Lord’s church being like a wonderful minestra, so the Holy Spirit’s work through his imparted gifts enhance the life and vigor of his people and signify his active presence. Zest does not make a soup, but it does demonstrate that there is something different and wonderful about what is in the bowl. In this series, I would like to briefly add (if possible) one flavor at a time to magnify our appreciation of what the Lord is doing through his church while understanding that there is still a great deal for all of us to taste and learn from the Holy Spirit as we see him working.

 

The Gifts are not the Gospel

This is such an easy thing to confuse in different church circles. It’s an issue of priority. The Gospel is primary, the gifts are secondary, and both are necessary. The most magnificent part of the Gospel is that God gave himself for us in love on the cross and then gives himself to us in life through the Holy Spirit. Therefore, the first thing that needs to be clearly emphasized is that the very Spirit of God is both given and then the giver — as he is pleased and finds pleasure to operate for his glory.¬†The one gift that I receive is the Spirit, and he has the gifts that he imparts when he desires to do so.

There are two awkward claims that Christians often make. ¬†The first claim begins with, “I have this-or-that gift…” And what we generally mean is that we’ve experienced the Spirit’s blessing and enabling at specific occasions and in certain ways. However, the awkward part of that phrase is that it makes us sound like we are the new owners of the gift to release at will. In the Gospel, I have Christ and he has me. Therefore, my identity is built in Jesus and is not found in a grace-gift that I might use or one that I think might correspond with my personality. If I find my identity in a gift, I miss the Spirit. It is common to find Christians spending a good amount of time wondering, debating, and even arguing whether a person “has” a certain gift or not. Take the pressure off. Make sure you or the person in question has Christ and is fulfilling his royal law. You know, the law that says love God fully and your neighbor as yourself. The Spirit has the gifts. He is the owner and he wants to give them, but remember, those gifts represent him and the Truth so he will be very careful, strategic, and sometimes surprising in how he imparts them.

The second awkward (and I believe, incorrect) phrase that I’ve heard at times is, “Unless that gift (whatever one the Christian has in mind) is manifested, the Holy Spirit isn’t there.” Now, I know that the phrase isn’t spoken¬†exactly in that way, but it goes something like that depending on the context. I’ve heard it recently and also through the years in ministry in different forms — but that’s the gist of it. Usually, the person has a pet-gift that has grown into an agenda where they would like to see an entire church formed around it. They have equated much if not all of the Holy Spirit,¬†doctrine, and the work of God with that one gift. It becomes the litmus test¬†for all service and fellowship.

Again, the problem is one of ¬†identity. The Apostle Paul corrected the Corinthian believers strongly saying, “One Spirit, many gifts.” Their error was an inordinate focus on one particular gift and therefore an abuse of the Spirit himself. So, the temptation we face is to identify so strongly with the expression of a gift that we build the Gospel around it. In effect, we make the gift and our experience dogmatic by saying, “Manifest this gift and then you’re really in God’s family.” No, the Gospel tells us to manifest repentance. We should be more concerned about what kind of vessel we are than what kind of gift we are manifesting.

Please understand that I’m not picking on any specific church. There is the tendency for Christian communities to gravitate to a one or two-gift-only practice. Some churches concentrate on a couple of sign-gifts while others think that the only two gifts in operation are preaching and listening with an optional third gift of rear-end endurance¬†& comfort depending on your persuasion. I’m writing principally to assist our church to be Gospel-centered and Spirit-guided. We’ll talk more about¬†how the gifts are Gospel-guided¬†in the next article.
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Get off the Wall

Two new and insightful articles that I wanted to share with you all about the Gospel, loneliness, and the walled-garden of¬†Facebook. Understanding that not all aspects of social media (specifically FB) are bad or problematic, my wife and I are collaborating on a future post about¬†redemptive practices of social media for the church. I think it’s fun just to write that my wife and I are collaborating. I’m sure there will be hundreds of¬†thumbs-up on that one.

Article 1 – by Tim Chester; Pastor – Sheffield, UK

Get off the Wall

The first article is actually a post in a 7-part series that Tim Chester is doing on the impact of Facebook on people’s thinking in the light of the Gospel. Tim always gives us a clear and salient view of the Gospel in his writings, so these articles are spiritually healthy perspectives on the tensions between social media and Gospel practices.

Article 2 – by Stephen Marche; Atlantic Magazine

This article closes with the astute observation that Facebook is preventing us from dis-connecting; not allowing us to literally forget-about-ourselves¬†for a little while. The author of this post (from what I can tell) is not a follower of Christ. However, Marche has very keen insights into the sociological aspects that I found myself nodding in agreement on many quotes. It’s a bit lengthy but well-worth the read as one of the most insightful treatments of this subject that I’ve seen.
Here is the intro:
Social media‚ÄĒfrom Facebook to Twitter‚ÄĒhave made us more densely networked than ever. Yet for all this connectivity, new research suggests that we have never been lonelier (or more narcissistic)‚ÄĒand that this loneliness is making us mentally and physically ill. A report on what the epidemic of loneliness is doing to our souls and our society.

A Nip of Newbigin: The Local Congregation

Lnewbigin

In this second part on evangelism in a secular culture, Lesslie Newbigin shares that it is not enough to try to impart evangelistic information to society, but rather, there needs to be a local and visible demonstration of the impact this Good-News-knowledge has had on real people. Therefore, the family of God becomes the best apologetic of the true story. 

The clue to evangelism in a secular society must be the local congregation. There are many other things of which one could speak — mass evangelism of the Billy Graham type, Christian literature, radio and television, study and training courses, and so on. These are auxiliary. Many of them can be very valuable. But they are auxiliary to the primary center of evangelism, which is the local congregation. The congregation should live by the true story and center their life in the continual remembering and relating of the true story, in meditating on it and expounding it in its relation to contemporary events so that contemporary events are truly understood, and in sharing in the sacrament by which we are incorporated into the dying and rising of Jesus so that we are at the very heart of the true story. The congregation that does this becomes the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God among the members and in the wider society. And here, of course, an immense amount depends upon the leadership given through preaching, pastoral encouragement, and public action by those called to ministry in the congregations.

~ Lesslie Newbigin: a Reader, p. 234-235

I liked that part about the congregation becoming the place where the new reality is present with its heart in the praise and adoration of God and in the sharing of the love of God…

We need to emphasize that present, new reality. While contextualization is important, one of  the most compelling things about our gatherings (larger and smaller) is how serious and committed we are as a people to the true story. Rather, the focus is often on our “technique of doing church.”

The Gospel shared is the Gospel lived. So, to share that story in a radically attractive way (evangelism) will require us to ask, “How are we–together interpreting our world and responding to it by the truth of the Gospel?” 

When people begin to encounter other people who are walking by the Gospel, they might see forms of church that are familiar to them but they will be drawn to the story because they see others who have authentically entered it and are taking it seriously.

—–

Part one of this 5-part evangelism series can be found here: Living by the Other Story

Here below is a link to a very good article on communicating the Gospel in considerate and contemporary ways. It runs parallel with what I’ve shared above.

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Gospel-centered Church Part 2

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Below are the 7 points of being a Gospel-centered church that Pastor Keller gave the other day in Berlin. These points help us “center-in” on the Gospel like I wrote about in the last post.

  1. Gospel Renewal — utilize the power of the Gospel to change character; not psychological selfishness to try to get people to have things “go well” in their lives. The two moralistic motivators are pride and fear. Often, these two are the ones we appeal to by default in our teaching. However, the Gospel both humbles us out of our pride and then affirms us out of our fear. The Gospel changes everything in our approach and response to life. 

     

  2. Contextualization — If you over-adapt to a culture or, on the other hand, say that everything is bad in a culture, then you’re not reading the culture well enough to bring the Gospel to bear on it.
    Over-adaptation is an insecurity that desires people to like us.
    No-adaptation is a prideful superiority.
    The Gospel brings poise and helps us with the balance of humility and boldness

  3. City positive — it’s not starry-eyed about cities but understands the hard difficulties within them. It’s not comfortable but understands that Jesus made himself uncomfortable for all of us. So, the Gospel will draw you toward cities, not repel you from them. If you can’t stand the city, the Gospel hasn’t gotten ahold of you in some area.

  4. Cultural engagement — see how cultures work; to hollow-out the culture from within — neither triumphalistic nor withdrawn.

  5. Missional Bearing — The community expects the presence of non-Christians experiencing the Body. Therefore, how things are presented and talked about will be done with a sensitivity to mission and an anticipation of members of the city involved who may not yet understand or agree with the Faith.

  6. Holistic — evangelism and mercy together; sharing the good news while living the good news. This would be the sum total of word and deed ministry. They both help you go more deeply into the other when practiced. 

  7. Movement oriented — Humility to work with others for the benefit of the city — not just trying to “increase the tribe”

Gospel-Centered Church Part 1

Pastor_keller_in_berlin
I’m here at the City to City European church planting conference in Berlin. Pastor Tim Keller is delivering the keynote addresses. In 2012, Pastor Keller is scheduled to release a new book called “Center Church”. One of the sections of the book will be called “Gospel-centered.” Pastor Keller delivered a session to that effect and I’ve shared some notes with you here. I appreciated many things about the session but mostly, the emphasis that this is more of a corporate approach as the people of God. In other words, it requires the people of God devoted together to be a Gospel-centered church. Read on for some of these insights.