Hurricane Irene is making her presence known in New England. The wind and rain have arrived. The MBTA is shut down. Many on the coast have boarded up their homes and business, and most churches in Greater Boston are cancelled as conditions will deteriorate throughout the morning and into the afternoon. All of that can't stop our "We are the Church" series. This morning I want to encourage you to read through the Scripture passages and devotional thoughts below, and then take some time to lift up some specific prayer requests for Redemption Hill.
Two weeks ago we examined Acts 2:42-47 and saw how the church is a community of devoted disciples. The church is not a building but people who belong to Jesus and devote themselves to the Word of God, Gospel Fellowship, Prayer and Worship, and Advancing the Mission of God. Last week, we thought through the implications of how the church is a community of united disciples. We relate to both God and man in a whole new way because of the gospel. This week we want to think on how the Holy Spirit makes the church a community of gifted disciples.
How does God advance his mission in the world? Answer: through his people, the church. How then does the church advance the mission of God? Answer: through the gifts that the Holy Spirit supplies. In Romans 12:1-8, Paul instructs the church at Rome about using their gifts. Here are few thoughts on using our gifts to serve one another and the world with appropriate passages drawn from other places in the New Testament.
1) What are spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts are supernatural abilities empowered by the Holy Spirit and bestowed on the church by the Triune God in order that the church will be built up, people will be converted, and God will receive glory. God distributes gifts to his people according to his own goodness and grace, not on the basis of any merit in the individual (Rom 12:3-6).
2) How should we respond to these gifts? Primarily in two ways. First, God's gifts should humble us. Paul urges the Roman believers "not to think of [themselves] more highly than [they] ought to think" (3). Because God is the source of our gifts, we have nothing to boast about before him or others. Secondly, we are to USE OUR GIFTS. This is what Paul says in verse six: "Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them . . ."
3) Why does God give each person different gifts? God gives different gifts to each member of the church so that we might function as one united body effectively. He expands the image of the church functioning as a body in 1 Corinthians 12. Each person in the church contributes to the whole in a unique way. Just as a body needs hands, eyes, legs, and a head to flourish, so the church needs those gifted in serving, generosity, administrating, hospitality, and teaching. The church cannot function in its fullness when people fail to exercise their gifts. "If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together" (1 Cor 12:26).
At the same time, a lack of strong gifting in a certain area does not exempt any Christian from obedience. For example, those who are not particularly gifted in teaching are not exempt from instructing others in God's truth. Those who are not particularly gifted in mercy are not exempt from extending mercy when needs arise, etc. etc.
4) What are the purposes of spiritual gifts? There are three prominent purposes of gifts in Scripture. 1) The glory of God: All spiritual gifts are given that we might glorify God (1 Pet. 4:10-11). We glorify God by displaying His work through our lives and in the manner we exercise them (1 Pet. 4:10-11). 2) Building up the Church: Spiritual Gifts are given for the edification of the church, the building up of the body, the common good (1 Cor. 12:7; Eph. 4:11-16). 3) For the world: The gifts also have an evangelistic purpose (1 Cor. 14:24-25) and are given to the church that she might be further conformed into the image of Christ (Eph. 4:13). All of these purposes work together seamlessly. God is glorified and unbelievers see his glory as the Spirit manifests Himself in the body as the church becomes more like Jesus.
5) What are the gifts and how do I know which ones I have? Scripture lists at least twenty-two gifts. In Romans 12, we find the gifts of prophecy, serving, teaching, exhortation, giving, leadership, and mercy. There are several lists of gifts in Scripture (Rom. 12:6-8; 1 Cor. 7:7; 12:8-10; 28-30; Eph. 4:11; 1 Pet. 4:10-11). However, it does not seem that the lists in Scripture are comprehensive. Spiritual gifts are any ability the Spirit gives to believers to express their faith for another’s edification.
The best way to discern your spiritual gifts is through serving. As Christians get involved in the life of the church and in the mission of God, most of the time gifts naturally surface. Gifts are also best discerned in community. As we live out our faith together, we can help one another identify how the Spirit has gifted us and encourage one another to press on in the mission. Finally, we can also identify our gifts by examining what we enjoy.
6) The greatest gift is love. Paul ends 1 Corinthians 12 by saying: "But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way." That more excellent way is love. Love should influence and motivate everything we do as a Christian, and that includes how we serve the church and the world through our gifts.
Are you ready to use your gifts? Be praying about ways to serve and get involved at RHC! Here are a few ways. Another way we serve one another is through prayer. Here are a few prayer needs for RHC:
- Community Group Multiplication: We will be starting our fourth Community Group and launching our new schedule the week of Sept. 12-18th.
- Serve Medford & Soccer Nights Follow-up: There are many in our community that expressed interest in RHC. Pray that many of them will join us on a Sunday soon!
- Church Membership: We are starting our membership process next month. It is an exciting time in the life of our church as we take this huge step in our journey.
- College Students Returning: Most of our college students will be returning in the next week. Pray for our collegiate luncheon on Sept. 11th. Ask God to grow our ministry to college students deep and wide.
- Many Contemplating following Christ: Continue to pray for many people who are exploring what it means to follow Christ. Pray that many will join us in following him.