“SPIRITUAL GIFTS: THE BIG PICTURE” 1 Cor. 12:1-7
INTRO – There are a LOT of things that we find ourselves concerned about these days. In fact, we’ve become so concerned about some of the things that are grabbing headlines these days that we are finding ourselves greatly out of focus on the things that truly matter in our lives. We get so wrapped up in the threads on Facebook & Twitter, or on the incessant 24-hour a day newscasts w/ all the bad headlines & news, that we end up saying things we shouldn’t say as Christ-followers, doing things we shouldn’t do, driven by our fear & our disgust at things that we simply cannot change.
Church – Listen! The days in which we are living are difficult days & call for deep, abiding, strong, unshakable faith in the Lord & in the unchanging truth of His Word. None of the events that we are watching unfold in front of us should surprise or alarm us if we know what the Word of God says.
- 12:12 – “[The devil] is filled w/ fury b/c he knows his time is short.”
- 2 Peter 3:3 – “…you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing & following their own evil desires.”
- 2 Tim. 3:1-5
So in the midst of all the craziness that’s happening – & will continue to happen – let’s make sure that we keep the main thing the main thing. Let’s stay focused on the things that God is concerned about in our lives. There are 4 things that I believe He is concerned about, things that He will always be concerned about, no matter what’s going on in our world:
OUR SALVATION – GOD LOVES THE WORLD & DESIRES FOR ALL PEOPLE TO HAVE AN ETERNAL RELATIONSHIP W/ HIM. That truth will never change. He loves the world & sent His one & only Son into the world to be the one & only Savior of the world.
This singular truth cuts through all the rhetoric of our day. It cuts through all the headlines that scream out at us. It cuts through all the protest signs. It cuts through all the harsh, hate-filled Facebook posts. As Christ-followers, we must remember that He loves every person that we see in every news report, on every TV show & movie, in every restaurant we eat in, in every car we pass, every home we pass, every hospital we pass, every prison we pass. And He loves every person in this room right now, & He is concerned about your salvation. Are YOU saved today?
OUR SIN – He is concerned about our sin b/c He knows that our sin short-circuits His plans for our lives.
- Our sin grieves the Spirit of God. Eph. 4:30 – “…do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
- Our sin quenches the work of the Spirit of God – 1 Thess. 5:19 – “Do not quench the Spirit.”
Grieving & quenching the Spirit of God in our lives happen when we sin in any way, whether in word or deed or thought. And when He is grieved & quenched, our spiritual lives suffer greatly. We are hindered in our ability to live a godly, holy life b/c we can’t hear Him like we need to; we can’t sense His leadership like we need to; & we can’t serve Him like we are called to. Which leads to next concern:
OUR SERVICE – Not a single Christian has ever been saved & then not expected to serve God is some way. There is no Christian anywhere in the world, at any time in history, who has not been given some assignment to serve God in some capacity. Simply put: We are saved to serve. Some serve in very public ways; some in very private ways. Some serve on the front of the stage for all to see; some serve behind the scenes where hardly anyone sees. But the only thing that matters is our faithful obedience to whatever God has called us to do. I love how Joshua challenged the people of God w/ these powerful words from Joshua 24 – & they have such powerful application for our lives today!
- Joshua 24:14-15 – “Now fear the Lord & serve Him w/ all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River & in Egypt, & serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me & my house, we will serve the Lord.”
OUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS – God is concerned about our spiritual gifts. Here are some reasons why:
- Our gifts are gifts from God – When you give someone a gift, you want to make sure that they know what to do w/ it. Doesn’t do any good to give someone a toaster if they take it outside & try to mow the grass w/ it. God gave us our gifts. V. 4,5, & 6 tell us that there are different gifts that will be used in different ways, but the same God gave us these gifts.
- Our gifts must point to Jesus – If they don’t, then they’re not of God. There was a lot of abuse of spiritual gifts going on in the Corinthian church, especially the gift of tongues. People who had that gift were exercising it in an ungodly way, being prideful that they had that gift when others didn’t. There’s no place for pride in exercising our spiritual gifts. I love what one writer said about spiritual gifts: “Spiritual gifts exalt the Giver of the gift, not the receiver of the gift” (http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-body-building-1-corinthians-12). As Paul said in v. 3, when we are speaking by the Spirit of God, using the gifts He’s given us, we will say, “Jesus is Lord.” We will point to Him alone, & not to ourselves.
- Our gifts benefit the Church – Paul was speaking to the Church at Corinth here when he said in v. 1, “Now, about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant…” This was a message to the whole church b/c spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of the whole church. He makes this even clearer in v. 7 when he says, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The gifts are individual – “Now to EACH ONE” – but the benefits are for the whole Church – “…for the common good.” John Piper: “A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to express our faith effectively (in word or deed) for the strengthening of someone else’s faith.” The Greek word here for “common” is sympheron, & it means “to bring together.” What English word does sympheron sound like? Symphony. What’s a symphony? It’s a collection of different musical instruments that make beautiful music when they are all on the same page, all praying the same song, all played together in harmony. What an awesome picture of the church when our spiritual gifts are being used together in harmony!
- Our spiritual gifts help us to all be on the same page. – Understanding
- Our spiritual gifts help us to all be playing the same song. – Mission
- Our spiritual gifts help us to all be in harmony w/ one another. – Unity
CONCLUSION – 2012 movie “The Avengers” – Story of a group of superheroes that banded together to battle an evil force that was bent on world domination. The only problem was, these superheroes had a hard time banding. For about the first half of the movie, they were each caught up in their own agendas. They squabbled. They backbit. They distrusted each other’s motives. As a result, the whole was actually far less than the sum of its parts. And the bad guy was smart enough to anticipate all of this. He actually counted on their lack of unity in order to accomplish his diabolical plan. He almost won, because the Avengers failed to realize that it took all of them, each using his or her own gifts, in order to defeat the enemy.
At one point, when it looks as though the team has fallen apart, Agent Nick Fury says to them, “The idea was to bring together a group of remarkable people, see if they could become something more. See if they could work together when we needed them to, to fight the battles that we never could.”
The funny thing is, with the exception of that “fight the battles we never could” part, that pretty much could describe God’s plan for His church.
(James Jackson, http://www.lifeway.com/Article/sermon-body-building-1-corinthians-12)