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Sunday, January 12, 2014

A change of focus

We have been exploring the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives through the various "gifts" he gives as we walk along with him.  As we have already established, there are a variety of "fruits" and "gifts" of the Spirit, but all come from exactly the same source.  Fruits are a result of growth IN our inner man as we walk with the Spirit, gifts are a result of the Spirit's working within us given to help each of us grow a little deeper in Christ.  The gifts of the Spirit are for the benefit of the entire Body of Christ - his church - your fellow believers.  The fruits of the Spirit actually impact you first, then they begin to reveal the nature of God's heart to the world around you.  We need both - one without the other is like bread without butter, potatoes without gravy, or cake without frosting.  I can eat bread plain, but there is something about the combination of butter slathered on the surface of a good bread which gives it just that much more pleasure when I take it in!  I think God may want us to find as great a pleasure in enjoying the presence of his Spirit within our lives as we do enjoying cake with frosting, bread with butter, and potatoes with gravy!  It is this "with" thing we need to understand if we are to understand the Spirit's purpose in the fruits and the gifts - for in being "with" us, indwelling us "with" his presence, we are made new, vibrant, and effectual in our ministry.

A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.  To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; to another the same Spirit gives a message of special knowledge.  The same Spirit gives great faith to another, and to someone else the one Spirit gives the gift of healing.  He gives one person the power to perform miracles, and another the ability to prophesy.  He gives someone else the ability to discern whether a message is from the Spirit of God or from another spirit.  Still another person is given the ability to speak in unknown languages, while another is given the ability to interpret what is being said.  It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts.   (I Corinthians 12:7-11 NLT)

Let's keep in mind all the spiritual gifts are for the purpose of helping each other.  They are given to "grow" the church - to help us become stronger in our walk, built up in our faith, and growing in unity.  You might have heard someone speak of the gifts in three categories:  the Teaching Gifts, the Service Gifts, and the "Sign" Gifts.  Loosely the various gifts outlined "fit" into these three categories as follows:

1. Teaching Gifts:  Evangelist, Prophet, Pastor, or Teacher - the explanation of these "speaking" gifts is found more thoroughly outlined in Ephesians 4, but in general, they are given to the Body of Christ for the express purpose of preparing the believers for their work of service (for all are to serve), the building up of the members of the Body (for all need to receive encouragement or edification), and to bring the Body to a place of unity (for unity will help us achieve maturity).

2. Service Gifts:  Administration, Giving, Helps, Hospitality, Love, Mercy, or Serving - you will find further teaching on these in Romans 12 and I Peter 4. In general, these gifts serve to "help" the Body of Christ.  For example, if you have the gift of Administration, you might find yourself fulfilling a leadership role in the Body, such as a deacon or elder in the church, lay minister, or other such role.  Those who function in the area of hospitality might actually be those who hold small groups in their homes during the week, opening both their homes and their hearts to others so they may grow in Christ in a safe, and trusted small group environment.

3. Sign Gifts:  Faith, Healing, Miracles, Discernment, Tongues, or the Interpretation of Tongues - there is really no better explanation of these gifts than to say they actually reveal God in some way which allows men and women to see evidence of God's working in their midst.

So, we have various "groups" of gifts, but it is not as important to put them into "buckets" as to understand the purpose behind the gifts - they all work to "grow up" the church and to keep us on track.  Without discernment, we might believe anything we are taught by anyone teaching it.  Without administration, the church might be lacking in organization and the necessary talent to further the "programs" and outreach work it is intended to accomplish.  All gifts are necessary - all gifts are for the Body benefit.  

Yesterday, we explored two gifts which seem to go hand-in-hand, the Word of Knowledge and the Word of Wisdom.  Look at the gift of Faith. Now, don't confuse this with the faith to believe in Christ as your personal Savior, the only Son of God, given to provide a means of reconciliation between us and God the Father.  This is also a "gift" to us, for we don't even possess the faith to believe, but the spiritual gift of Faith is a little different. It is the ability to believe despite the circumstances - it is almost the ability to see things as they "will be", not necessarily as they are.  People who might operate in the gift of faith might also operate in the gifts of healing, because the person has faith to see what "will be", not focus on the deformity or illness which is before them.  

As you can see, many of the gifts are interwoven with others.  None really stand alone.  Pastors are good with the gift of administration, but may not be as good with the gift of teaching - so they need others to fulfill this role in the church.  Teachers may actually use the gifts of teaching, mercy, knowledge, etc.  As they teach, their ability to present the teaching in a manner which reaches the hearts of those listening, to empathize with their condition of heart and to speak into their lives in a way which does not condemn or drive away is actually a manifestation of each of these gifts.  It is not as important to "pigeon-hole" yourself or another into a "gift" category - it is important to recognize they function together, often at the same time and through the same individual, because they are needed in order to build up, bring into unity, and to reveal Christ within us.

I have heard some say they wished they knew what "gift" the Holy Spirit was placing in their lives.  I would challenge you to think not so much about "a" gift, but the openness to be used as his "conduit" of edification (building up), exhortation (encouragement and correction where necessary), and expression (the revelation of Christ's love and mercy within you).  It isn't the "gift" you have - it is the person who indwells you that makes the difference in your life. Just sayin!