DashHouse.com

The Blog of Darryl Dash

This blog is about how Jesus changes everything. He changes:

Our relationship with God

Our relationship with others

Our vocations - how we live and work in this world

Our ministries

This blog exists to explore some of the ways that Jesus changes everything. It provides resources and articles that will help you think about the ways that Jesus can change every part of your life.

The Lord himself invites you to a conference concerning your immediate and endless happiness, and He would not have done this if He did not mean well toward you. Do not refuse the Lord Jesus who knocks at your door; for He knocks with a hand which was nailed to the tree for such as you are. Since His only and sole object is your good, incline your ear and come to Him. Hearken diligently, and let the good word sink into your soul. (C.H. Spurgeon, All of Grace)

Giving God Your Best

  • the date was April 21, 1996
  • I can't remember exactly what my week had been like, but it was Sunday, and it was time for me to preach
  • and so I stood up in front of my tiny congregation, opened God's Word, and began to do what I had done hundreds of times before: preach
  • I'm sure nobody else remembers this day
  • there were no angelic visitations, no audible voice of God; in short, nothing that would make that Sunday stand out from any other one, except for one thing: God convicted me of a dreadful sin that had been perpetuated in my life and ministry, and convicted me that from that day, it had to stop

  • what was this heinous sin?
  • was I secretly stashing money from the offering plate?
  • was I carrying out an inappropriate relationship with a member of the congregation?
  • was I secretly engaged in activities which would have caused scandal within if only known?
  • no, none of those things
  • in fact, my sin was a very public one
  • nobody would have been shocked, even though I think everyone there knew I was committing this sin
  • and yet I am convinced that it was every bit as wrong as stealing money from the offering or engaging in some illicit behavior
  • and God convicted me that morning in a way that remains strong to this day

  • let me tell you what my sin is, but I'll warn you that it might seem like nothing at first
  • the sin I committed was delivering a bad sermon
  • I delivered a message that had little redemptive value
  • it brought very little glory to God and very little benefit to the listeners
  • now, I had preached many bad sermons before and I have probably preached many bad sermons since, but April 21, 1996 sticks out for another reason
  • I preached a bad sermon for no other reason than I was content giving God my second-best efforts
  • I can't tell you what I did that week, but I can tell you what I didn't do: prepare
  • it wasn't a case of church emergencies that came up, or any number of legitimate reasons that might have prevented me from preparing adequately
  • I was merely lazy
  • and instead of giving God my best, I was content to give God my leftover efforts
  • and it showed

  • you see, that morning I got up and preached
  • I stood up, and instead of my usual six pages of notes, I had only one and a half
  • and right away I knew I was in deep trouble
  • I knew it; the congregation knew it
  • I managed to muddle through
  • I honestly believe that some in the congregation thought nothing of it
  • on the way home, my wife turned to me and said, "Tough crowd today"
  • and in my heart, I knew that the problem was not with the crowd, but with me

  • God and I met that week
  • and I vowed never again to stand in the pulpit unprepared
  • to never again insult God by giving him less than the best of my efforts
  • since that day, I have probably preached many sub-par sermons, but I vowed since that day that I will never stand again before God's people and deliver less than my best efforts
  • I will never again offer God my second or third best efforts

  • now, I imagine some of you are rolling your eyes
  • but think with me for a moment
  • how many of us have experienced churches where sermons are prepared shoddily
  • where the worship is planned at the last minute, with little thought and little preparation
  • where Sunday School lessons are thrown together an hour before the Sunday School class begins
  • where people are appointed to committees and somehow never manage to show up
  • in short, how many of us have grown used to a culture where mediocrity is the norm; where it is acceptable to give God what is substandard rather than excellent; where we can pass off laziness and lack of commitment as our spiritual service to the God of the universe who gave his Son to die for us

  • and I began to think of another story that took place a long time ago
  • the story is found in the Old Testament book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament
  • the date was perhaps somewhere around 430 BC
  • the scene is Jerusalem
  • some years before, the people had returned from exile in Babylon to find the city of Jerusalem in pieces
  • and they began to rebuild: to rebuild the temple, and to rebuild the city walls, to make Jerusalem a place of worship once again

  • but there was a problem
  • as life settled down, and as generations forgot the exile, some drift between the people and God developed
  • the people began to neglect the worship of God and stopped living according to God's will
  • even the priests were guilty

  • let me tell you what their sin was, and then give you three contributing factors to their sin
  • THEIR SIN WAS BRINGING DEFECTIVE SACRIFICES TO GOD
  • (Malachi 1:6) "A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, where is the honor due me? If I am a master, where is the respect due me?" says the LORD Almighty. "It is you, O priests, who show contempt for my name. "But you ask, 'How have we shown contempt for your name?'
  • (Malachi 1:7) "You place defiled food on my altar. "But you ask, 'How have we defiled you?' "By saying that the Lord's table is contemptible.
  • (Malachi 1:8) When you bring blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice crippled or diseased animals, is that not wrong?
  • God charged the priests with failing to honor him, of even showing contempt for his name, by conducting worship in a manner that was shoddy and disobedient

  • you see, God's law required that only perfect animals be offered to God
  • (Deuteronomy 15:21) If an animal has a defect, is lame or blind, or has any serious flaw, you must not sacrifice it to the LORD your God.
  • (Leviticus 1:3) "'If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, he is to offer a male without defect.
  • you may ask why the sacrifice had to be a perfect one
  • two reasons:
  • the first reason is that only a perfect substitute could stand in place of an imperfect offerer
  • what can we offer to God that would pay for our sins? surely not something imperfect, only that which is perfect
  • and we recognize this as a picture of Jesus Christ, called in 1 Peter 1:19 "a lamb without blemish or defect," offered for our sins
  • that's one reason why the sacrifice had to be a perfect one

  • but the second reason, and the one I want to dwell on this morning, is this: only the best should be offered to the Lord
  • "How dare you," Malachi says, "offer a gift to the Lord which is less than the best"
  • only the best should be offered to the Lord
  • no animals with blemishes or defects; no blind or lame animals; only the best and the first
  • and yet Malachi 1:8 says that the people were bringing blind, crippled, and diseased animals for sacrifice
  • and Malachi makes the point in verse 8, "Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?"
  • the people were offering to God something they wouldn't offer even to an important human being
  • they were offering to God something that, if they offered to another person, would have got them into a lot of trouble

  • God says in verse 10:
  • (Malachi 1:10) "Oh, that one of you would shut the temple doors, so that you would not light useless fires on my altar! I am not pleased with you," says the LORD Almighty, "and I will accept no offering from your hands.
  • he said, "If you're going to offer me the defective from your flock, don't even bother. Don't go to all that effort just to insult me"
  • and in verse 14 he says:
  • (Malachi 1:14) "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.

  • six times in this passage, God refers to his name as being dishonored by the people on account of this
  • when God's people bring less than their best to God, it brings dishonor to his name
  • it's an insult to the very nature of God

  • as I look at this passage, some important principles stand out to me
  • and these principles, to this day, resonate within my soul and affect my ministry
  • I've applied this lesson to my life, with still a long way to go
  • but I wonder if you would look with me at four lessons I've learned from Malachi 1:
  • LESSON NUMBER ONE: THERE IS ALWAYS A REASON TO OFFER GOD LESS THAN OUR BEST
  • there is always a compelling reason not to give God our best
  • as I look at Malachi 1, it strikes me that the people
  • might have had a number of reasons for what they did
  • issue one might have been expedience - trying to be as cheap as possible
  • it was just a lot cheaper and easier to offer God a defective animal rather than a perfect one
  • things haven't changed - people then worked hard for their money
  • when they would come to pick or buy their offering, why should they offer what is costly?
  • why not simply try to get by, offering God the leftovers

  • just like today, some of us ask, "Why can't we give God our leftover time, money, and energy? Why bring something valuable to God when we can give him something that costs us nothing?"

  • issue number two might have been neglect
  • not really caring how they offered the sacrifice
  • listen to what the priests said, according to Malachi 1:13:
  • (Malachi 1:13) And you say, 'What a burden!' and you sniff at it contemptuously," says the LORD Almighty.
  • worship had become a burden to the priests
  • they began to neglect their duties, the act of giving God the best
  • their priorities had drifted, and other things - convenience, comfort, even contempt for God - had taken their place
  • when I stood on April 21, 1996, I was guilty of neglect
  • I had let my priorities drift to the point where I was neglecting my rightful duty to God

  • issue number three might have been that everyone else was doing it
  • why should I offer a perfect sacrifice? did you see that defective animal that the Jones brought in?
  • or today in the church - why should we offer God our best when the others are offering their leftovers
  • but the first lesson I have learned is that there is always a reason to give God less than our best
  • we can always offer up excuses
  • but these reasons, these excuses, just don't cut it

  • LESSON NUMBER TWO THAT I'VE LEARNED: OUR SERVICE REVEALS OUR ATTITUDE TO GOD
  • the big issue in this passage, I believe, is that their choice to give God less than their best revealed the priority they had given God
  • their methods of giving revealed their real attitudes toward God
  • in short, the priests and the people treated God with less honor and respect than they gave parents or foreign rulers
  • they cared less about God than they cared about themselves and the people around them

  • when I stood and preached without preparing, I told God what place he had in my life that week
  • I told him by my actions that he wasn't a priority in my life
  • I revealed an attitude of indifference and carelessness in my relationship with God
  • because our service, or lack of it, always reveals our attitude to God

  • LESSON NUMBER THREE THAT I'VE LEARNED: SERVICE IS MEANT TO BE COSTLY
  • it was meant to cost us something
  • when God told the people to offer the first and the best from the flocks, it was for a reason: so it would cost them something
  • and it's supposed to cost us something today
  • shame on us for passing off time and effort to God that costs us nothing and thinking that it's enough
  • shame on us for refusing to serve because it might cost us something
  • shame on us for giving God only that which costs us nothing
  • King David said in 1 Chronicles 21:24 (NLT), "I cannot take what is yours and give it to the LORD. I will not offer a burnt offering that has cost me nothing."

  • LESSON NUMBER FOUR THAT I'VE LEARNED: WE CAN GIVE GOD NOTHING LESS THAN OUR BEST
  • stop offering God contemptuous sacrifices!
  • stop winging it!
  • stop giving God your last minute, half-hearted, leftover and warmed-up efforts
  • don't slap something together and pretend it's okay
  • stop giving God what wouldn't pass off to your spouse, your boss, or anyone else
  • stop passing off to God what you wouldn't pass off to anyone else

  • and when it comes to talking about becoming lay ministers, and of every believer using their spiritual gift to glorify God by serving one another, let me tell you now: don't even bother if you're going to offer God defective sacrifices
  • if you're only planning on offering God your leftover time, money, and energy, you'll be no different from those in Malachi who didn't want to bring anything valuable to God

  • and so in the week following April 21, 1996, I had some business to do with God
  • I made a vow never to come to the pulpit again and offer God a defective sacrifice
  • I was never going to sacrifice excellence in what I offered to God on the altar of convenience, expedience, or neglect
  • I would no longer dishonor God by bringing injured, crippled, and diseased service as my offering to God

  • I don't know where you're at
  • I don't know if you're rolling your eyes thinking that I'm taking this a little too seriously
  • but I'm done with feeding into the culture of a church that it's okay to be sloppy and shoddy when it comes to serving God
  • I'm done with passing off to God what we wouldn't offer to God, just because it's church and just because many of us are volunteers
  • what we do for God matters most because it's done for God, who's worth so much more than anyone else

  • so are you with me?
  • I'm not going to ask you to walk the aisle today, and I'm not going to even ask you to stand or to raise your hand
  • I'm going to ask you to do what I did
  • I'm going to ask you to go stand before God and say, "No more. Never again do I offer less than my best to you"

  • I wonder if you would bow your heads with me
  • (Malachi 1:14) "Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king," says the LORD Almighty, "and my name is to be feared among the nations.
  • Lord, whatever it is that we do to serve you, may it never be less than our best
  • may we honor you in our service, not giving you leftover energies, but giving you first place in our lives
  • may October 25, 1998 be to somebody here what April 21, 1996 was for me: the day that we say "Enough! From now on we only give our best to our God"
  • Amen.

Scripture and Prayer

  • if you can remember back a long time ago, we began talking about the Christian life you've always wanted to live
  • my assumption was that all believers want to live godly lives, but we're frustrated, many of us, by our tendency to sin
  • as the hymn says, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, prone to leave the God I love"
  • how many times do we feel frustrated by our lack of follow-through when it comes to pleasing Christ?

  • so, way back in July I told you two things that won't work
  • focusing on outward change doesn't work
  • self-effort doesn't work - it's not a matter of simple will-power
  • and I began to unravel what I believe the secret is to a life that is pleasing to God
  • I told you that I believed the pathway to spirituality is through a set of spiritual disciplines that condition us to me more like Christ
  • just as you couldn't expect to run a marathon without entering months of rigorous training, you can't expect to live a life that is pleasing to God without entering into a regimen of spiritual training
  • really, what we do in private determines the success of our walk with God day to day

  • so far, I've talked about five spiritual disciplines, and I'll bet you can't remember what they are
  • celebration, slowing, servanthood, confession, and secrecy
  • and I have three more to cover: prayer, Scripture, and in a couple of weeks, the subject of fasting
  • so I want to ask you, how is it going?
  • have you found that your walk with the Lord has been improved by the practice of these private disciplines?

  • a few weeks ago, my schedule was controlling me, rather than me controlling my schedule
  • I was feeling frustrated in my personal devotions, fatigued, and a little harried
  • and I took a day apart
  • I actually booked a room in an Anglican convent for a day, up in Willowdale, and spent the day in prayer and reflection
  • you might not be comfortable with the idea of an Anglican convent, but the main idea for me was to get away into a place of solitude where I could spend time with my God in prayer, and in reflection of my life and effectiveness
  • but let me tell you that the time away, although too short, renewed me in a way that nothing else could have
  • in fact, I'm going back on a regular basis
  • because I'm learning that nothing can replace what God's people throughout the ages have practiced and found to be helpful: the regular practice of spiritual disciplines, not as an end to themselves, but as a way to draw closer to God

  • tonight I'd like to talk about the area of personal devotions
  • this is probably what you thought I would discuss when I first began the series on spiritual disciplines - even though they are only two of many practices
  • I WANT TO TALK FIRST ABOUT MEDITATION ON SCRIPTURE
  • what I want to talk about is not the two most common methods of looking at Scripture in personal devotions
  • the first common method is called study
  • it's important
  • sometimes we need to get out our Bible helps and dig down and do an in-depth study of the Word of God
  • that's absolutely crucial
  • in fact, I believe that every Christian needs to invest in some good Bible study tools that will last them a lifetime, because the study of the Word of God is so important
  • but that's not what I want to look at today

  • I also don't want to look at the next common method of looking at Scripture, which you could call survey
  • I think it's important to do this as well
  • I have a few different one-year Bibles, and I think they are useful to get an overview of books of the Bible, and to get to know the Bible as a complete book rather than a few isolated verses here and there

  • but the problem with both of these common methods of Bible study is that their goal is knowledge
  • and as important as knowledge is, it isn't enough
  • you see, the goal of the Bible is not to give us more information but to transform us
  • some of the people with the greatest knowledge of the Bible haven't had their lives transformed by God's Words
  • how do I know this?
  • (John 5:39) You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me,
  • (John 5:40) yet you refuse to come to me to have life.
  • the religious leaders thought that their knowledge of the Scriptures was proof of their spiritual greatness
  • but they never allowed the Bible's teachings to transform their minds and hearts
  • and they never met Jesus in the Scriptures

  • there is a big difference between reading the Bible to be transformed, and reading the Bible to find information or to prove a point
  • it is possible to read Scripture without being "washed by the Word"
  • as John Ortberg says, "The goal is not for us to get through the Scriptures. The goal is to get the Scriptures through us"

  • now, don't get me wrong
  • knowledge of the Bible is indispensable and it is good, but it is not enough
  • we need to come to the Bible in our personal lives not to gain more knowledge, but to transform our lives

  • we need to come to a small passage of Scripture, and enter into it and meditate upon it until it changes our lives
  • somebody has written:
  • If you read quickly, it will benefit you little. You will be like a bee that merely skims the surface of a flower. Instead, in this new way of reading with prayer, you must become as the bee who penetrates in the depths of the flower. You plunge deeply within to remove its deepest nectar.

  • the Bible talks over and over again of this practice
  • the words for meditate in the Scriptures are used over 58 times in the Old Testament alone
  • (Genesis 24:63) He went out to the field one evening to meditate.
  • (Psalms 63:6) On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.
  • (Psalms 119:148) My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.
  • (Psalms 1:2) But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.
  • and it comes from the belief that the God of the universe, the Creator of all things, desires our fellowship
  • and one of the ways he desires to meet us is through his Word

  • LET ME TIE IN THE IDEA OF PRAYER WITH THIS
  • you probably know Revelation 3:20 off by heart
  • (Revelation 3:20) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
  • most of the time we use this verse evangelistically, but did you know that it was written not to unbelievers but to believers?
  • Richard Foster says of this verse, "We who have turned our lives over to Christ need to know how very much he longs to eat with us, to commune with us. He desires a perpetual Eucharistic feast in the inner sanctuary of the heart"
  • and it comes as we meditate on Scripture and pray

  • and this is what prayer is
  • prayer is simply opening that door to intimacy and communion with God
  • as the authors of the study Experiencing God remind us, God is pursuing a love relationship with you
  • he longs to love you, to commune with you in a way that is real and personal
  • just as Adam and Eve walked with God in the cool of the day, God desires to walk with you - to cultivate his relationship with you, to go over things that you need to discuss together

  • you can see how different this is from the way we normally think of personal devotions
  • instead of racing through a Bible passage or studying a passage in depth, and ticking it off on a chart, and instead of viewing prayer as a n obligation, how about viewing it as a time with the God of the universe who loves you, who wants a real and personal relationship with you, who longs to walk with you in the cool of the day, or to enjoy a perpetual Eucharistic feast with you

  • I want to give you some suggestions from an excellent book by John Ortberg that will help to lead you to this place
  • THE FIRST THING HE SUGGESTS IS THAT YOU ASK GOD TO MEET YOU IN YOUR PERSONAL DEVOTIONS
  • before you begin, ask God to speak to you
  • as you begin reading the Scripture and praying, anticipate that he will do so
  • realize that Jesus is present with you as you begin to read his Word
  • listen to hear God's voice - a Scripture might impact you, you may feel convicted about some sin, or be prompted to take some course of action
  • ask the Spirit to illumine you as you read the Bible
  • D.L. Moody said, "The Bible without the Holy Spirit is a sundial by moonlight"
  • when we read the Scriptures, we need the Spirit to teach us
  • view your time as not a time with a book, but a time with the author of that book, who is still present to illumine his Word and to guide you

  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer underlines the importance of this attitude as we come to the Bible:
  • Often we are so burdened and overwhelmed with other thoughts, images, and concerns that it may take a long time before God's Word has swept all else aside and come through...This is the very reason why we begin our meditation with the prayer that God may send his Holy Spirit to us through his Word and reveal his Word to us and enlighten us.

  • THE SECOND THING HE SUGGESTS IS THAT YOU READ THE BIBLE IN A REPENTANT SPIRIT
  • when you come to your time of personal devotions, surrender everything
  • read with a vulnerable heart
  • (Hebrews 4:12) For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
  • the Word of God is not simply a collection of words from God, or a vehicle for communicating ideas
  • it is a living, life-changing, dynamic force that reveals who we are and who we aren't
  • it shows us the core of our spiritual life
  • it discerns what is good in us and what is not
  • and that is why we need to come to the Word in a spirit of openness and repentance
  • (2 Timothy 3:16) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,
  • (2 Timothy 3:17) so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
  • the Bible is meant to change the way we live
  • we should not study the Bible in order to increase our knowledge or to prepare to win arguments, we need to approach our time with God in order to be changed by it
  • so come to the Bible with a repentant spirit

  • THE THIRD THING HE SUGGESTS IS THAT YOU MEDITATE ON A FAIRLY BRIEF PASSAGE OR NARRATIVE
  • let me quote directly:
  • "So immerse yourself in a short passage of Scripture—perhaps a few verses. Read it slowly. Read it the way you would read a letter at the height of a romance. Certain words may stand out to you; allow them to sink into your heart. Ask if perhaps God wants to speak to you through these words. The question that always lies behind such reading is, ‘God, what do you want to say to me in this moment?'"
  • if you're reading a story, read with all your imagination
  • try to recapture the setting and what the experience must have been like
  • but instead of being focused on covering a huge portion of Scripture, focus on letting a short passage of Scripture sink into your hearts

  • this is where I have had to change
  • while I still value reading the Bible completely from cover to cover on a fairly regular basis, if you just do this you're missing out
  • we need to slow down and let a short passage of Scripture filter down into our lives
  • we need to saturate ourselves in a passage and until every aspect of our life is touched by it
  • we need to change our idea of success from how many pages we have read to how much God has spoken to us
  • we need to make it our job to stick with a Scripture as long as it takes to learn what we need to learn at the Savior's feet

  • THE FOURTH THING THAT ORTBERG SUGGESTS IS THAT WE TAKE ONE THOUGHT OR VERSE WITH US THROUGH THE DAY
  • you can't meditate fast
  • you need to slow down enough to meditate on God's Word for an extended period of time - when you're at a stoplight, or at various periods throughout the day
  • it's compared to the process by which the roots of a tree draw up moisture from a flowing river to bring nurture and fruitfulness to the entire tree
  • this is what we need to do
  • in Scripture, meditation is compared to a young lion growling over its prey, or the low murmur of a dove, or a cow chewing on its cud
  • take one thought from Scripture, and repeat it all day, because what the mind repeats, it retains
  • make it part of your life

  • FINALLY, LET THIS THOUGHT BECOME PART OF YOUR MEMORY
  • memorizing Scripture isn't just for kids
  • it's one of the most powerful means of transforming our minds
  • (Psalms 119:11) I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.
  • memorize statements from Scripture that will help you where you need help most
  • make Scripture part of your life until God's Word becomes part of your thought life

  • this is what I mean by prayer and Scripture
  • one of the things my wife and I have had to do to, in order to cultivate our relationship, has been to continue dating each other
  • we don't do it enough, but we need to regularly set time aside with no other agenda than to enjoy each other, commune with each other, reconnect and just enjoy our relationship
  • this is what God desires with us
  • (Revelation 3:20) Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.
  • or, as the New Living Translation says:
  • (Revelation 3:20 NLT) Look! Here I stand at the door and knock. If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal as friends.

Discovering Your Ministry

  • you know by now that it's our desire to become a church in which every member is a minister - where every single person is involved in fruitful, impassioned service
  • the first step in creating a church around the concept of lay ministry is to teach on this subject
  • for the last four sermons, I've taught on the subject of spiritual gifts and why our church must become a church in which every member is a minister
  • I agree with John MacArthur, who says: "No local congregation will be what it should be, what Jesus prayed that it should be, what the Holy Spirit gifted and empowered it to be, until it understands spiritual gifts"
  • so the first step is teaching

  • but the next step in creating a church around the concept of lay ministry is to align the believers in the church with their spiritual gifts
  • to take those who are fired up and ready to serve God using their gifts to discover what those gifts are in their rightful place of ministry
  • let me tell you what happens in the average church
  • Bill Hybels talks about an imaginary pastor named Bob - a good guy
  • and about every June, all his volunteers resign because they're going to the cottage
  • and about every August, Pastor Bob realizes that he's got to fill all these positions for them to start up again in the fall
  • so after a few years, he commits every August to what he calls August recruitment wars
  • he goes to war with his congregation to motivate, influence, or guilt-tip people to fill these positions

  • first week in August, his sermon is titled "Whatever Happened to Commitment?"
  • he preaches on how we live in a commitment-free culture
  • and says, "If you want to show your commitment, go out to the lobby and sign up, because we've got 15 positions that need to get filled"
  • well, some people say, "I'd like to think of myself as a committed person," and 5 people sign up
  • he's feeling pretty good

  • the next Sunday rolls around, and he preaches on the subject, "Take up your cross and follow Christ"
  • he says, "There are things in life you want to do, and there are things you have to do. There are things in this church that just have to be done. Jesus said, ‘Take up your cross and follow me.' I'm asking you to pick up the pencil in the lobby and sign up for whatever. Deny yourself."
  • that motivates some people, and 5 more sign up
  • he's doing pretty good - only 5 people left, and he's got two weeks

  • but he's not taking any chances
  • the next week, he reads his entire sermon from the Foxe's Book of Martyrs
  • he says, "This is the way our ancestors served Christ. There were people sawn in half for the cause of Christ. There were people burned at the stake. All I'm asking you to do is to sign up for one year. So you get up there and sign up!"

  • well, at the end of that Sunday he's got only one slot left - the third-grade Sunday School teacher
  • so on week four, he brings up little Mary Jane
  • she's a third-grade member of that Sunday School class
  • he takes her up to the pulpit and says, "Mary Jane, what grade are you in?"
  • "Mary Jane, what's it going to feel like for you and your little friends down there to be sitting down there all alone without a teacher?"
  • "Pretty awful, Pastor Bob"
  • "Well, Mary Jane, isn't it true that without a teacher you turn to things like drugs and alcohol and prostitution and that sort of thing?"
  • finally, there's a business guy at the end who fended off everything else
  • the pastor says, "You don't have to like kids, you don't have to know how to teach, but we need you to sign up to teach Mary Jane"
  • the businessman runs out back, picks up the pencil, and signs up
  • Pastor Bob goes home that afternoon and says, "I won August recruitment wars"

  • now let's think about the businessman when he goes to teach those third-grade girls
  • by the third Sunday, he's asking, "Why did I do this? I can't teach! I don't like kids!"
  • about the same week, the girls in his class are asking, "What's he doing here?"
  • and that's how the average church gets people involved in ministry

  • there's a better way
  • we don't want to guilt-trip and manipulate you into a place of service
  • we want you to realize that there's a better way to minister - a way that will bring you fulfillment and effectiveness

  • if you are not fruitful in ministry, you are probably doing things that God never intended you to do
  • you haven't found that unique place of service that God designed you for
  • it might be that many of you are frustrated because you've been appointed to a ministry, but you're not cutting it
  • you know it, and everyone else knows it
  • I'm telling you, don't give up, because God does have a place for you in ministry that will be rewarding, fulfilling, and effective
  • we just have to find it

  • when God created animals, he gave each of them a specific area of expertise
  • some animals run, some hop, some swim, some burrow, and some fly
  • each animal has a particular role to play based on the way they were shaped by God

  • the same is true with humans
  • each of us was uniquely designed and shaped by God to do certain things
  • we are to be wise stewards of our lives, and this begins by understanding that you are unique
  • you are a wonderfully complex composite of many different factors
  • and what God has made you to be will determine what God wants you to do
  • your makeup determines your ministry

  • what do we want to avoid?
  • we want to avoid doing things that God never designed us to do
  • we need to avoid areas of ministry in which we know that God has never given us abilities, interest, or passion
  • because when we are in a role and our gifts don't match, we feel like a square peg in a round hole
  • we become frustrated, and so do others
  • it produces limited results, and is an enormous waste of our time, talents, and energy

  • an officer reported to General Marshall during World War II that a commander in the field was incompetent
  • he wanted to know what to do
  • the general gave the command to have the commander removed immediately
  • the officer quickly responded, "But who will replace him?"
  • General Marshall looked straight at the officer and firmly said, "Who we get to replace him is the second issue. Our first responsibility is to fulfill the trust given to us by the government, families, and the soldiers under his command. We cannot let someone known to be incompetent remain in their position"
  • General Marshall went on to say, "The fact that the commander is not competent for the position is not so much a criticism of the individual as it is of the leaders who placed him there."
  • and he concluded: "It is now our responsibility to find where that commander is competent and put him there."

  • this morning I want to give you five questions that will help you discern your place of ministry
  • these questions aren't original with me, but I have found them to be very helpful in discovering where I should be serving
  • this morning's message is designed to help those of you who don't know where you should be serving to discover your place of ministry
  • I must warn you that it's not always easy
  • many times, it will involve trial and error
  • but five questions will help you in discovering your ministry here at Richview Baptist Church

  • QUESTION NUMBER ONE: WHAT IS YOUR SPIRITUAL GIFT?
  • this might seem redundant after what we've talked about these past weeks, but one person told me last week that she was more discouraged than ever, because out of the 21 spiritual gifts that I described last week, she didn't think she had any
  • I want to give you three clues that will help you answer the first question, "What is your spiritual gift?"
  • the first step is education
  • educate yourself on this topic
  • read 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Peter 4
  • pick up a good book on the subject - such as What You Do Best in the Body of Christ by Bruce Bugbee
  • participate in the Network course that we will be leading in the new year
  • but educate yourself on this subject

  • the second step is experimentation
  • get involved in people's lives
  • try different things in ministry
  • I'm convinced that many spiritual gift tests never spot a gift because a person has never experimented in ministry
  • look for ways to serve other people within the church in a way that is consistent with your personality and passion
  • but just get moving
  • someone has said it's a lot easier to steer a moving truck than one that is parked, and it's a lot easier to steer you into fruitful ministry once you get moving and experimenting with different things

  • the third step is evaluation
  • evaluate your feelings
  • ask yourself, "Do I feel fulfilled serving God and others in this way?"
  • look at the results
  • if you see fruit for your labor, it just might be that you are gifted in that area
  • ask others what gifts they see in you

  • educate, experiment, and evaluate - these will lead you to answer in a right way the question, "What is my spiritual gift?"

  • QUESTION NUMBER TWO: WHAT IS YOUR HEART?
  • what passion has God given you? what makes your heart beat faster within the church?
  • as a young man, I sensed God moving me into pastoral ministry, and I came across a verse that changed my whole way of thinking
  • (1 Timothy 3:1) Here is a trustworthy saying: If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task.
  • I realized that it was perfectly legal, even good, to desire, reach out for, aspire to a certain area of ministry
  • in all likelihood, if God has given you a passion for a certain area of ministry, God has given you gifts in that area as well
  • without a doubt, God has given you a passion for a certain area of ministry within the church
  • some come and talk with me about children's ministry - their heart gets so excited when it comes to children, and they can barely stop from weeping
  • others talk about ministry to the poor, and finding opportunities to help those who are impoverished or suffering
  • others get excited about reaching the lost
  • what is your heart?
  • what passion has God given you?

  • QUESTION NUMBER THREE: WHAT ARE YOUR ABILITIES?
  • I talked the other week about the relation between spiritual gifts and natural abilities
  • only believers have spiritual gifts, but everybody has natural abilities
  • but in the life of a believer, it's sometimes hard to tell the difference between a spiritual gift and a natural ability, for as John Stott says, "The God of creation is the same as the God of the new creation"
  • so ask yourself: what natural abilities do you have?
  • if you are musical, you can use your musical abilities within the church
  • if you teach, maybe you can teach within the church
  • if you have leadership experience, God can use that leadership responsibility within the church

  • look at the apostle Paul
  • before he became a believer, he was educated in philosophy and rhetoric
  • and after his conversion, how did he serve God?
  • using his natural abilities in argumentation, logic, and rhetoric
  • God can take whatever your natural abilities are, and use them within the church

  • QUESTION NUMBER FOUR: WHAT IS YOUR PERSONALITY?
  • it's obvious that God does not use a cookie-cutter to create people
  • God loves variety
  • he made introverts and extroverts
  • he made some people thinkers and other people feelers
  • he made some people love routine and some people love variety
  • he designed some to love working in a team, and others to love working alone

  • the amazing thing is that God uses all types of personalities
  • Peter was outgoing and brash
  • Paul was dogmatic, reflective, and not always easygoing
  • and there is no right or wrong personality - God can use everyone

  • but your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts
  • for instance, two people might have the gift of evangelism, but one is introverted and one is extroverted
  • the way their gift of evangelism will be expressed is going to differ based on their personality

  • that is why your ministry will be unique
  • you can never mimic or duplicate the ministry of someone else, because God has given you a completely unique personality that nobody else has
  • Judy Garland once said, "Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else"
  • so ask yourself, what is my personality?
  • because when you minister in a way that is consistent with the personality God has given you, you will experience incredible fulfillment

  • LAST QUESTION: WHAT EXPERIENCES HAS GOD BROUGHT INTO YOUR LIFE?
  • what background has God given you that can help the church?
  • somebody has said, "God never wastes an experience"
  • it may be that God has given you some education that can be used in the church
  • God might have given you some vocational experience that can carry over to ministry within the body
  • what spiritual experiences have you had? what ministry experience?
  • and what painful experiences has God brought into your life that you have learned from, and can use now in ministry?

  • these five questions can be shortened to the acronym S.H.A.P.E. - spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality, and experiences
  • and they just might help you find a place of ministry that fits you perfectly

  • two warnings: never think you don't belong
  • (1 Corinthians 12:21) The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"
  • (1 Corinthians 12:22) On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,
  • (1 Corinthians 12:23) and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,
  • (1 Corinthians 12:24) while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it,
  • (1 Corinthians 12:25) so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.
  • you are needed in the church
  • there are no unimportant members in the church - we need you, and you do belong

  • another warning: don't covet other people's gifts or pretend to have gifts you don't have
  • that's why Paul wrote in Romans 12, while introducing the subject of spiritual gifts:
  • (Romans 12:3) For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
  • don't try to be somebody else, and don't covet their gifts
  • be yourself

  • as we close, do you see the three possible problems with gifts in the church?
  • (1) abuse - too few people using too many gifts - they're overloaded and worn out
  • (2) disuse - too many people in the church using too few gifts
  • (3) misuse - that's when people are using the wrong gifts

  • I want you to imagine dying, and fifty years from now someb ody comes up to you and says, "I want to thank you"
  • you reply, "I'm sorry, I don't think I know you"
  • then they explain: "You were a lay minister at Richview Baptist Church. You served and sacrificed and built the church that reached me for Christ after I died. I'm in heaven because of you"
  • do you think your effort is worth that?

  • if I knew a more significant way to invest my life, I'd be doing it
  • there is nothing you can do with your life that is more significant than joining Richview, getting involved in ministry, and serving Christ by serving others
  • the effect of your ministry will outlast by far your career, hobby, or anything else you do
  • in the 19th century, it was a layman and not the ordained clergy that took more people to heaven with him than any other person
  • his name was D.L. Moody
  • he was a businessman who never was ordained
  • he just started using his gifts
  • and the 20th century is almost over, some people say that Bill Bright, who's not ordained, will have been responsible for more conversions than anyone else
  • God can use you in a way you haven't imagined to make an eternal difference, all because you discovered your ministry and served God in a way that nobody else can

  • let's pray
  • Lord Jesus, thank you for the fact that you so much believe in us, you let us use our gifts for your glory
  • may this be a church where ever person is a minister
  • and every minister uses their gifts
  • in Jesus' name, Amen.

Looking at the Gifts

  • when the famous St. Paul's Cathedral in England was just completed, the equally famous architect Sir Christopher Wren took the then King of England around for a tour
  • as the King walked through this edifice, he didn't say anything
  • when he finally emerged on the other side, he turned to the waiting, expectant architect and said, "It's awful, artificial, and amusing"
  • this would strike us as a pretty terrible blow if we were the architect, wouldn't it?
  • actually, it wasn't a problem at all
  • the architect was really delighted
  • because in those days, awful meant awesome, artificial meant a work of art, and amusing went amazing
  • so what the King really meant is that it is awesome, a work of art, and awe-inspiring
  • no wonder the architect was pleased

  • it just goes to show how much words can change their meaning after time
  • and that is within the English language in just a few hundred years
  • imagine, then, if we were to try to find the meaning of words as the author intended them, not three hundred years ago, but two thousand years ago
  • and not in the English language, but in Greek, and not the type of Greek spoken today
  • that's the sort of problem we run into when we talk about the spiritual gifts
  • with some of them, we simply do not have enough linguistic information to be able to be dogmatic about what the gifts really are
  • so we've had to draw upon the experience of people who have seen these gifts operating
  • and it is probably wise to adopt a less than dogmatic stance on some of these gifts
  • I'll explain this to you as we go along
  • this is the one of three challenges we face as we examine specific spiritual gifts

  • another problem is the classification of these spiritual gifts
  • depending on how you interpret the different passages, there are between 22 and 27 different gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the Scriptures
  • some people have tried to classify them to make them easier to remember
  • Gothard, for instance, classifies them as motivation, ministry, and manifestation gifts
  • Ray Stedman from California, who built a big church around the concept of body life ministries, talks about gifts, workings, and manifestations
  • the only problem is, the Scriptures themselves do not naturally lend themselves to any sort of classification
  • the three major lists of gifts, from Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12, are not complete
  • not one of them contains all the gifts that are mentioned in the Bible
  • secondly, they are partially overlapping
  • some of the gifts are mentioned in all three lists
  • some of them are mentioned in two, some only in one
  • and there are some not mentioned in any one of them that are mentioned in other passages of the Bible that are not primarily concerned with the subject of spiritual gifts
  • so it would seem that the New Testament is not as concerned with classifying the gifts as it is putting before us the incredible diversity of the giver of the gifts, the Holy Spirit
  • and along with that, the richness of the body of Christ, to whom these gifts have been given
  • God has given us an amazing variety of spiritual gifts, and they are all tokens of his varied grace, as 1 Peter 4:10 says

  • then you also have the question of cessation: have some of the gifts ceased?
  • some would argue that the gifts of apostleship, tongues, prophecy and so on no longer apply today
  • others argue that all gifts are available
  • for this morning, at least, I'm going to entirely sidestep this problem to focus on the big picture

  • in the light of these three challenges, we want take a broad approach, and to put the emphasis where the Scripture puts it: on action, not analysis
  • so I want to give you some working definitions this morning
  • a working definition is for someone who, after a while, tires of esoteric discussions, and says, "All I want is a handle on the phenomenon so I can get busy doing what I should be doing"
  • this morning, we won't dot all the i's and cross all the t's
  • we'll just get to the point where we can get on with the job and put it to work
  • I want to give you sort of a starting block in which you can place your feet and begin running

  • you might disagree with me on some of my positions
  • that's okay
  • I'm not here to win any arguments; I approach the subject with a great deal of humility, and I don't have the final word

  • now, I'll cover 21 of the gifts this morning
  • I obviously won't have time to cover all of them in depth
  • I'll vary my emphasis based on the need
  • the ones that need explanation, I'll explain
  • the more obvious ones I'll touch only with passing comments
  • where possible and where appropriate, I'm going to mention individuals you may know who are demonstrating these gifts
  • as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words
  • in this case, a person is worth a thousand words
  • the purpose will not be to glorify these people, because they can't really claim credit for their gifts anyway
  • it will simply be to flesh out real-life examples of this in our own congregation and beyond

  • I also want to avoid slipping into the lecture mode
  • I don't want this to be a pedantic, intellectual discussion of the gifts, as much as a description of Richview Baptist Church
  • somewhere in here, everyone fits in
  • so see this as descriptions of people in this particular church
  • imagine ourselves as a diamond that sparkles in different ways
  • that's the purpose this morning

  • THE FIRST GIFT I WANT TO MENTION IS THAT OF APOSTLE
  • it's used in 1 Corinthians 12:8 and Ephesians 4:11
  • are there apostles today?
  • in the narrow sense, no
  • the two qualifications of an apostle appear to have been (1) having seen Jesus after his resurrection with one's own eyes; and (2) having been specifically commissioned by Christ as an apostle
  • in that sense, Paul appears to have been the last person made apostle

  • but in a more general sense, the New Testament has three verses in which the word apostle is used in a broader sense
  • for instance:
  • (Philippians 2:25) But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger [apostle], whom you sent to take care of my needs.
  • so some today would use apostle to describe someone who is an effective church planter or a significant missionary pioneer
  • Network describes apostleship as "the divine ability to start and oversee the development of new churches or ministry structures"
  • these people are extremely rare, although they do exist
  • we only have to think of some of our missionaries who are gifted in pioneering and church planting
  • although I would be extremely cautious in attributing the gift of apostleship to anyone, because of the confusion between the narrow and general senses of the word

  • WHAT ABOUT PROPHETS?
  • prophets are mentioned again in 1 Corinthians 12:28 and Ephesians 4:11
  • if you define a prophet as a person through which an authoritative word of God is to come with a "Thus says the Lord" approach which is binding on everyone, that gift doesn't operate anymore
  • the canon is closed
  • but I believe the gift of prophecy in the New Testament is distinct from this
  • there are many indications in the New Testament that prophets did not speak with authority equal to the words of Scripture
  • for instance:
  • (Acts 21:4) Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem.
  • this was a prophecy that Paul ignored

  • it appears that the New Testament gift of prophecy is not inspired revelation, but rather process in which a person spontaneously discerns and communicates a message from God to the people
  • not canonical revelation, but for instance, when an unplanned but urgent request to pray for certain missionaries in Nigeria
  • then much later finding out that at that exact time, the missionaries involved had been in an auto accident or an intense spiritual conflict
  • at other times, when preaching, a preacher-teacher may experience a special unction to communicate things he hadn't planned
  • some would say that this is the gift of prophecy
  • some argue that those who are outspoken in confronting evil and sin in a decisive and authoritative manner have this gift - people like Charles Colson or Ken Campbell
  • they might have this sort of gift

  • I HARDLY HAVE TO MENTION EVANGELIST, MENTIONED IN EPHESIANS 4:11
  • although we all have a responsibility to evangelize, some are especially gifted in communicating the Gospel to unbelievers so that they respond in faith
  • according to 2 Timothy 4:5, Timothy was an evangelist
  • for an evangelist, sharing their faith is almost as natural as breathing
  • whereas most of us share our faith from time to time, an evangelist can't help but share their faith almost daily

  • HOW ABOUT A PASTOR-TEACHER?
  • the root word for pastor is shepherd, and a pastor is someone who cares for his flock, feeds the flock, and protects his flock
  • and usually the pastor commits himself to one flock, and cares, feeds, and protects them
  • you could define it as a long-term responsibility for the spiritual welfare for a group of believers
  • elders, by the way, would function as pastors - there is no scriptural difference
  • some of our deacons, who provide spiritual oversight, would qualify
  • a New Testament shepherd isn't someone who gets itchy feet every year or two and moves on to a new congregation
  • they commit themselves, as pastors, elders, or small-group leaders, to a long time to serve the same group of people
  • you don't have to be called a pastor to have this gift
  • some examples, I think, in our own congregation would be people like Steve Smith and Bob Fukumoto, men who continue to exhibit pastoral gifts even though they're not serving as vocational pastors right now

  • CLOSELY RELATED TO THIS IS THE GIFT OF TEACHING, MENTIONED TOGETHER WITH PASTOR IN EPHESIANS 4, BUT SEPARATELY IN 1 CORINTHIANS 12:28 AND ROMANS 12:7
  • it is self-evident - a teacher is able to clearly explain and apply God's Word, causing greater Christ-likeness in the lives of listeners
  • it is not only a knowledge of God's Word, as many people have a knowledge who cannot teach
  • it is the ability to clearly communicate God's Word, leading to life-change in the lives of students
  • people like Charlie Hynds and Dawna Haywood have exhibited this gift in abundance here

  • THEN THERE'S ENCOURAGEMENT, MENTIONED IN ROMANS 12:8
  • this is an interesting one, because the word for encouragement comes from the same word used to describe the Holy Spirit: paraclete - to come alongside, to encourage, to exhort
  • it was used in classical Greek of exhorting troops who were about to go into battle
  • it is the divine enablement to present truth to strengthen, comfort, or urge to action those who are wavering or discouraged
  • you know this sort of person - one who is sending notes and cards, phoning just when we need it
  • I've noticed that there are many of these people at Richview - people like Lori McMurray and Joan Marshall
  • they always seem to be encouraging others within the church

  • I'M GOING TO PUT TOGETHER TWO OF THE GIFTS: LEADERSHIP AND ADMINISTRATION
  • leadership is mentioned in Romans 12:8
  • administration is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28
  • they are distinct but related ideas
  • to lead means to preside or have the first place
  • it means a person who stands before to speed up the process
  • in other words, the leader is someone who has a grasp of the big picture - where the people they are leading are going to be five or ten years from now
  • they have the ability to communicate those goals to the people they are leading, so that people spontaneously follow
  • you don't have to hang around Joe Tullo for long to know that he has this sort of gift and is using it in the church

  • administration, however, is a nautical term
  • it is used of a helmsman, or someone who steers the ship
  • you can draw a distinction between the captain, who knows the big picture of where the boat has to be in five days, the conditions they will face, and so on
  • but the helmsman takes the wheel and maneuvers the boat through the details
  • the administrators are not necessarily the dreamers, but once they are told what to do, you can relax because they will take care of the details
  • they love to make lists and tick them off
  • you can depend on them to follow through
  • someone like Arlene Rawson or the office administrator here, Janis Percy

  • both are needed if the church has to accomplish its mission
  • if the church has an administrator but no leader, the church will function very smoothly but have little purpose or direction
  • on the other hand, if all you have are leaders but no administrators, you'll know where we have to go, but we'll never get there
  • both leaders and administrators are necessary

  • ANOTHER PAIR OF GIFTS THAT ARE RELATED BUT DISTINCT ARE SERVICE AND HELPS
  • helps is mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:28; serving in Romans 12:7
  • these are doing gifts - they're task related
  • helps means the performance of helpful deeds in aiding another
  • service probably means a personal ministry done to serve another - probably referring to meeting physical needs
  • they both achieve the same function in the body: the divine enablement to accomplish practical and necessary tasks, with a view of freeing up, supporting, and meeting the needs of others so they can use their gifts more effectively
  • by using their gifts, they free up others to use their gifts

  • the difference comes in the area of motivation
  • it would appear that people with the gift of service are task-oriented people
  • when they see something that needs doing, they jump in and do it
  • they can't walk past a need without doing it
  • most children don't appear to have this gift!
  • according to wives, most husbands don't either
  • but if there's snow and a shovel's there, they'll do it
  • if tables need to be carried, they'll jump in and carry them

  • the person with the gift of helps may do all these things, but their focus is not on the task, but on the people they're going to help out
  • their focus is to free the individual
  • these are no glory roles
  • nobody lines up the streets to thank these people
  • they are often ignored, but they are desperately needed in the congregation

  • I've noticed a number of people with the gifts of service and helps
  • if tables need to be packed away, or snow needs to be shoveled, they're there
  • to give two examples, Jack Caldwell and Paul Payne

  • SO IS THIS NEXT GIFT, THE GIFT OF MERCY, LISTED IN ROMANS 12:8
  • it's the enablement to cheerfully and practically help those who are suffering or in need without thought of repayment
  • these people always side with the underdog
  • they are spontaneously drawn to those that others reject or find undesirable
  • in the kind of broken world we live in today, this is a needed gifts in the church
  • a ll of us are exhorted to show mercy, but those with the gift of mercy do it spontaneously and cheerfully
  • they continually bring stories of how they're helping those in need
  • for instance, the Beattys and Shields

  • GIVING IS THE NEXT GIFT, ACCORDING TO ROMANS 12:8
  • it's also a duty
  • but people with the gift of giving approach it somewhat differently
  • those who do it out of a sense of duty have to work hard to learn how to give joyfully
  • they have a tendency to count what they give
  • but people with the gift of giving do not tend to focus on what they give
  • they usually also recognize opportunities to go ahead and make money, and go ahead to do it with a goal to give their money back to God
  • they go by the motto, "Make all you can, give all you can"
  • they don't give a tithe, they may give 70% or more of their income to God
  • it's not just the rich who have this gift; the poor widow who gave all did
  • it's like what Paul wrote:
  • (2 Corinthians 8:3) For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own,
  • (2 Corinthians 8:4) they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.
  • that's a beautiful description of someone with the gift of giving

  • ANOTHER MISUNDERSTOOD GIFT IS THAT OF FAITH
  • faith is a gift, according to 1 Corinthians 12:9
  • George Mueller had this gift; he started and ran many orphanages
  • on many occasions, there was no food, but he would lead the orphans in a prayer of thanks for the food they were about to receive
  • and right in the middle of the prayer, trucks would drive up with bread and eggs and all sorts of food
  • it happened consistently in his ministry
  • some preachers try to shame us all into having the faith that George Mueller did, without realizing that Mueller probably had this as a spiritual gift

  • there are three types of faith in the Bible: saving faith, which every Christian has
  • then there's the fruit of the Spirit, called faith: the growing ability to live in the light of invisible reality, as in Hebrews 11
  • and then there's the gift of faith: the divine ability to discern with extraordinary confidence the will and the purpose of God in seemingly impossible situations and to trust God to accomplish this work
  • this is what Mueller had

  • we're almost at the end
  • KNOWLEDGE AND WISDOM ARE MENTIONED IN 1 CORINTHIANS 12:8
  • they are two related gifts
  • knowledge is the divine enablement to systematize and bring biblical truth to the body
  • theologians and scholars would have this gift
  • these are the intellectual pioneers and seminal thinkers
  • knowledge and teaching together become powerful gifts in the church

  • wisdom, while closely related, is probably more specific in its application
  • it is the Spirit-given ability to receive insight as to how any given knowledge can be best applied to the needs of the body
  • for instance, Peter Wagner has an incredible amount of knowledge on church growth
  • but he says that if you sit him in a pastor's study and ask how to apply that knowledge to a particular church situation, he doesn't have a clue
  • but he has a colleague named Carl George
  • within fifteen minutes of talking to Carl George, he can say, "Here are the four things that will go wrong with your church in the next year. Here's what you need to fix it"
  • he can bring the knowledge to bear on a particular situation

  • NOW I WON'T SAY MUCH ABOUT THE WHOLE AREA OF MIRACLES, HEALINGS, DISCERNMENT, TONGUES, AND THE INTERPRETATION OF TONGUES
  • they're mentioned primarily in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10
  • they're all together and they all have to do with altering the normal course of nature, whether in healing, casting out of demons, or discerning whether something is human, divine, or demonic in its nature
  • the meanings of many of these gifts are self-evident
  • in many churches these gifts get the most attention out of any gifts, but it is helpful to remember not to focus on some gifts at the expense of others
  • some people believe they don't exist anymore
  • others believe they do exist, but need to be exercised under the guidelines given in Scripture
  • but they all have to do with altering the normal course of natural events, whether in speaking prayer or praise in syllables not understood by the speaker, or in the whole area of healing

  • LET ME QUICKLY FINISH WITH PROBABLY THE LEAST POPULAR GIFT: CELIBACY
  • it's given as a gift in 1 Corinthians 7:7
  • not too many people want this as a gift
  • but celibacy can be defined as the God-given ability to remain single and enjoy it
  • or, perhaps more in light of 1 Corinthians 7, to say that those who have this gift are not overly concerned with the disadvantages of being single, primarily in the area of sexual temptation
  • and have come to the point where the advantages of singleness exceed the disadvantages of singleness, as far as ministry is concerned

  • this gift is never a standalone gift
  • it's for the purpose of taking some other gift of theirs and enlarging its effectiveness
  • John Stott, for instance, has a gift
  • because of his gift of celibacy, he's been able to take his gifts of knowledge and teaching to benefit the church around the world in a way that, if he was married, he would probably not have been able to do

  • tell me something
  • isn't the Holy Spirit rich to give us all this diversity at Richview?
  • hasn't Christ lavished on us the riches of his grace?
  • on this Thanksgiving Sunday, when we thank God for giving us so many precious gifts, I think it's only appropriate that we pause to think of the spiritual gifts that he has given us, and thank God for giving - for lavishing - these gifts upon this church

  • wouldn't it be amazing if every individual at Richview fit themselves under one of these gifts and began to work together toward the common goal that the leadership is taking us in?
  • I want you to dream it, pray for it, and make it happen
  • and then we will see an impact for Christ's kingdom that we've never seen before
adapted from a message by Sunder Krishnan, Rexdale Alliance Church

What Are Spiritual Gifts?

  • after church one Sunday morning, two pastors stood over a table filled with a pile of money - the biggest offering ever taken in the history of that church
  • the two pastors stand there perplexed, wondering what triggered such an outpouring of generosity
  • as one looks over his sermon notes from that morning, the other says, "Look again, it must have been something you said!"

  • I feel a little like one of those pastors
  • no, we didn't have a record offering last week
  • but I have never received so much feedback after a sermon as I did from last week
  • I want to thank you for it

  • what I said last week was simple: we have a plan
  • we have a plan to lead every member to fruitful, impassioned service at Richview Baptist Church
  • I told you that a Gallup survey found that 10% of church members are already involved in active ministry within the church
  • I asked those of you who are currently active serving God in some ministry of the church to stand
  • well over 10% of you stood, and that didn't include those who were working in the Churchtime and nursery programs running during the service
  • I thanked you, and told you that help is on the way

  • and then I asked those of you who are not yet involved in ministry but would like to be to raise your hand
  • Gallup says that this number should be around 40%
  • to be honest, not many of you raised your hand
  • but I promised those of you who did that we had a plan to help you find your place of service within the church

  • and something puzzled me later
  • a lot of you neither indicated that you were involved in service or wanted to be
  • and some of you who I know are involved in service never raised your hand at all
  • and then, with the resulting feedback I received this week, I began to realize that I needed to clearly communicate what I meant when I talked about spiritual gifts, ministry, and our expectations
  • few topics create more confusion and criticism in the church than the subject of the Spirit's work in gifting the church
  • if you want to create a fistfight, handpick people from various denominations, throw them in a room together, and bring up the subject of the gifts of the Spirit
  • churches have split over the issue
  • libraries are filled with books on the topic
  • and yet we can't ignore them
  • the Bible says that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for every member of Christ's body, the church
  • and that includes you and me

  • SO LET ME BACK UP THIS MORNING AND ASK, WHAT IS A SPIRITUAL GIFT?
  • I've argued that we all have one and that we should all be using them
  • what exactly is a spiritual gift?
  • how does it differ from a natural ability?
  • when do you receive a spiritual gift?
  • and is a spiritual gift permanent, or can it be taken away?
  • the Greek word for spiritual gift is charisma, a word that has made its way into the English language, when we talk about somebody possessing charisma, and also when we talk about the charismatic gifts
  • its best English translation would be a "grace gift" - a gift of grace
  • and when it is used in the New Testament in relation to spiritual gifts, it usually means an endowment of the Holy Spirit for service to advance Christ's kingdom

  • it's used, for instance, in the following passages
  • (1 Peter 4:10) Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God's grace in its various forms.
  • (1 Corinthians 12:1) Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.
  • (Romans 12:6) We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.
  • let me give you a working definition of spiritual gifts, that will provide a starting point:
  • "A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church"
  • and let's break it down a bit more, before I ask other questions
  • "A spiritual gift is any ability"
  • some have asked the question, "How can you tell the difference between a natural ability and a gift of the Spirit?"
  • sometimes there is no question, because some of the gifts tend to be more miraculous and not related to natural ability
  • but on the other hand, other spiritual gifts seem to be closely related to natural abilities - teaching, showing mercy, administration, leadership
  • so, I would argue from the Scriptures that some natural abilities can in fact be used as spiritual gifts, provided some conditions are met, as we'll get to in a minute
  • for instance, if someone naturally is able to teach, they can use that natural ability, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, within the church

  • this is where we realize that each one of us has some natural ability that would be useful in Christ's kingdom
  • you have some ability that can be used in the church to glorify God
  • but one word of caution here: the Bible never draws a distinction between natural and supernatural gifts
  • there is a danger of overemphasizing the supernatural gifts and de-emphasizing the gifts we think are natural
  • if we do this, we fail to see God's hand working in all the gifts and fail to thank him for all of them

  • but a spiritual gift is not just an ability, but it is an "ability empowered by the Holy Spirit"
  • (1 Corinthians 12:11) All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
  • the Holy Spirit is sovereign in distributing gifts
  • the word here "gives" or "apportions" is in the present tense
  • you could translate it, "The Holy Spirit is always continuing to distribute or apportion gifts according to his desires"
  • the Holy Spirit has a unique role in taking natural abilities and supernaturally empowering them
  • or sometimes in taking people who lack natural ability and supernaturally empowering them to do his work

  • just think of Moses
  • Moses didn't feel that he had the necessary gifts or abilities to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage
  • and yet God's response to Moses was to let him know that the task would be accomplished by God's power working in him

  • and what I've learned is that the Holy Spirit's empowerment is the key factor
  • natural ability, without the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, will lack lasting results

  • but one more phrase under this definition:
  • "A spiritual gift is any ability that is empowered by the Holy Spirit and used in any ministry of the church"
  • the key phrase here is "used in any ministry of the church"
  • (1 Corinthians 12:7) Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
  • (1 Corinthians 14:26) What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
  • gifts are not given to make us feel good or to advance our personal agenda
  • they are to flow through us to the benefit of others around us in the church
  • gifts are designed to be used within the church
  • as much as we can use our spiritual gifts on committees and in services outside the church, we are not fulfilling our role until we are using our gifts within the church
  • the divine ability you have been given enables you to meet a need in the church and to make a kingdom difference

  • next week we're going to look at the amazing variety of spiritual gifts available and present within this church
  • looking out at each of you who are believers, I can confidently assert that you have received a generous endowment of spiritual giftedness as a token of God's grace
  • when we know our spiritual gifts, we will know our spiritual job description
  • our ministry will become more focused
  • (1 Corinthians 12:27) Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
  • each one of you is a vital part of the ministry at Richview Baptist Church

  • which leads me into my next question
  • WHAT IS A MINISTRY?
  • last week I asked those of you who are involved in ministry to stand
  • some of you are involved in ministry, and yet you never stood
  • it's possible you're involved in ministry, and yet you don't know it
  • it's also possible that some of you think you're involved in ministry, yet you aren't
  • let me tell you what ministry isn't
  • ministry isn't sitting on a committee or a board
  • I'm not saying that this isn't important, but many church members are so busy attending meetings that they have little time left over for real ministry
  • Rick Warren writes, "I've often wondered what we'd have left in Christianity if we cut out off the meetings. After all, Jesus did not say, ‘I am come that you might have meetings.' But if you ask typical unchurched people what they notice most about their Christian neighbor's lifestyles, they are likely to say, "They go to a lot of meetings.' Is that what we want to be known for?"
  • he continues:
  • "My guess is that the average church would be healthier if it eliminated half of its meetings to allow more time for ministry and relational evangelism...If a layperson comes to me and says, ‘Pastor, I have four hours a week to give my church in ministry,' the last thing I would do is to put him on some committee. I want to get him involved in ministry, not maintenance."

  • what is the difference between a committee and a lay ministry?
  • committees discuss it, but ministries do it
  • committees maintain, ministries minister
  • many churches need to streamline and release people from being bureaucrats to being ministers
  • so ministry isn't sitting on a committee or a board

  • ministry isn't necessarily a position
  • a lot of people have never been appointed or elected to a position, yet they are involved and fruitful in ministry
  • a lot of people have been appointed or elected to a position, and yet they're not ministering

  • the type of ministry I'm talking about belongs within the church
  • as much as I am supportive of people giving of their time and their gifts, I believe in reading 1 Corinthians 12-14 that the local body of which you are a member needs you to exercise your gifts in that place
  • (1 Corinthians 12:27) Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.

  • so what is ministry?
  • the use of any God-given gift or ability to accomplish the purposes of the church
  • a phone call to someone who is discouraged; the relief of poverty; visiting the sick; mailing encouragement cards; sharing your faith with an unbeliever; praying; teaching a class; and more we'll be looking at next week
  • any time you do something to minister to another person in the context of the local church and its purposes, you are ministering
  • some of you who didn't stand last week have been ministering - you just didn't know it
  • and maybe some of you who stood last week need to cut back on your meetings, and turn your focus to ministry

  • I WANT TO CLOSE BY LISTING SOME ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT LAY MINISTRY THAT ARE IMPORTANT FOR EVERYONE TO UNDERSTAND
  • first, everyone is a minister
  • you are a minister
  • God has given you a spiritual gift that is essential to the proper functioning of the church
  • the problem is, the young think they're too inexperienced
  • the older think that they're too old
  • but listen: if you're young, we need you to serve
  • we want to give you permission to be more exuberant and to make mistakes or do things differently than older people would
  • isn't that right?

  • and if you're older, we understand that health and other concerns might keep you from doing things the way you used to
  • but you still have a vital role to play in the church
  • we need you
  • and I believe that you're here in this church for a reason
  • God has something he wants to do through you that will match your giftedness, your personality, and also your capabilities
  • God won't give you a bigger job to do than you can handle in his strength

  • second, every ministry is important.
  • there is no spiritual gift ghetto
  • there are no second and third-class gifts
  • your gift is important to me and to this church

  • third, we are dependent on one other
  • we need each other's gifts!
  • if you're a leader, we need you to lead
  • if you're a giver of mercy, we need you to give mercy
  • if you are a teacher, then we need you to teach
  • if you're a leader, we want you to lead

  • four, we will never start a ministry without a minister.
  • I personally believe that in the interim, things will get worse before they get better
  • some existing ministries might temporarily shut down as we re-align our church
  • over and over again, we need to tell each other that we are not going to plug somebody in who is not gifted just to fill a need
  • we will not continue ministries if there are no ministers

  • closely related to this is the principle that we do not want anyone ministering out of guilt
  • the very opposite of fruitful, impassioned service in your area of giftedness is ministry out of obligation or guilt
  • let me say that if a ministry or a committee is going to shut down because they are lacking one person, you don't have to be that person
  • to put it another way, just because someone throws you a ball doesn't mean you have to catch it
  • we do not want anyone serving God out of guilt or obligation

  • another assumption: people will be allowed to quit or switch ministries gracefully
  • as we enter new areas of ministry, we need to give each other permission to fail
  • you will make mistakes; I will make mistakes
  • in a few weeks, I'll be talking about giving God our best
  • but right now I'll give the other side of the equation: if it's worthy doing, it's worth doing poorly
  • I don't mean giving God less than our best, but when we start out in a new area of ministry, we won't be pros overnight
  • when I first started preaching, the people left that evening and said, "That sermon reeketh"
  • it was beyond being bad; it took real discernment to think that I could ever preach and people would listen
  • but somebody had the grace to allow me to make mistakes, because that was the only way I was going to learn

  • when we discover that we are in an area in which we aren't as gifted as we thought we were, we will give each other permissions to make a change
  • that if they find out they aren't gifted in a certain area, they're allowed to make a change

  • I would like to institute something called the one or the two-hat rule
  • here's what it means
  • every one of us will wear one hat - we will have something we can call our ministry at Richview Baptist Church
  • it will match our giftedness, our passion, our personality
  • it will not be serving on a committee - it will be an area of service that uses your spiritual gift
  • and we will want you to wear that one hat well
  • if you are really ambitious, although we won't encourage it, we will allow you to wear two hats
  • my dream is that everyone here will have one, maybe two hats, but no more
  • what this allows you to do is to have a ministry, and to do it with excellence
  • it will also allow us to say no to other ministry opportunities without guilt, knowing that we are already serving God using our spiritual gifts within the body

  • one comment about serving
  • there will still be certain occasions where serving will take place even outside our giftedness
  • we will all sti ll have the challenge of evangelism, even if that isn't our gift
  • and when tables need to get put away or dishes need to get washed, it won't be a matter of, "That's not my spiritual gift"
  • it will be a matter of humbling ourselves and meeting an evident need, of becoming a servant like Jesus and following his example of washing feet
  • the goal will be, however, to serve God primarily in the area of our giftedness, still staying sensitive to his leadings to become a servant whenever needed

  • let me conclude with some words by Tony Evans:
  • "One has only to look at the anemic nature of so many of our churches today, coupled with the reality that in most places 10 percent of the people are doing 90 percent of the work, to understand what happens when spiritual gifts are not working properly. The church's impact upon its membership, as well as the community it should be serving, is stunted.
  • "Instead of being salt and light in the world, the church becomes satisfied functioning as a weekly Bible study with a few songs mixed in...
  • "Absolutely nothing can replace the power, influence, and impact of a church that is fulfilling God's kingdom agenda through the operation of the gifts in the body. Why? Because that's how the Spirit manifests himself, and when the Spirit manifests himself, powerful things happen"
  • let's pray