You are Gifted – I Corinthians 12

Have you heard of the term “child prodigies?” Although educators often label them as “gifted and talented,” they are young people blessed with unbelievable intelligence, or amazing artistic talents, or seemingly unnatural physical abilities.  Examples of child prodigies would include Mozart who learned to play the piano at the age of four. He composed his first pieces of music at five and at age eight, he wrote his first symphony. Another example would be Pablo Picasso who had already become an accomplished and renowned painter in his teenage years. In more recent history many of you have probably seen the video of Tiger Woods as a two-year-old on the Tonight Show hitting golf balls. A few years ago a young man named Michael Kearney received national attention when he earned a $1,000,000 on the television game show “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?” He too was a “child prodigy.” Michael finished high school at age 6 and earned his first college degree at age 10. He began teaching college by the age of 17. He spoke his first words when he was four months old. At the age of six months, he said to his pediatrician, “I have a left ear infection.” He had learned to read at the age of ten months. When Michael was four, he was given diagnostic tests for the Johns Hopkins precocious math program and achieved a perfect score.

Although their stories astound us, such gifted individuals are very rare. The majority of us are astoundingly average, but I can say with confidence that each of you that know Christ is gifted! Before you deny being gifted remember that I am not the one saying you are gifted. God says it.  Listen to God’s description of how you are gifted in Apostle Paul’s inspired words from 1 Corinthians 12,

1  Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. …3  Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
4  There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit.
5  There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.
6  There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
7  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
1 Corinthians 12:1-7 (NIV)

  1. The Holy Spirit has given you the gift of faith
  2. The Holy Spirit has given you gifts for serving others

Four times in this letter that we call “1 Corinthians” the Apostle Paul used a short phrase like “now about” to transition to a new thought or topic. Remember that Paul addressed a long list of spiritual and practical concerns connected to the Christian church in Corinth. In the first eleven chapters he wrote about divisions in the church, lawsuits between Christians, sexual immorality, marriage, worship, and the Lord’s Supper. Then beginning in Chapter 12 and continuing through Chapter 14 Paul addressed the issue of spiritual gifts among Christians.

In a style that we have learned to expect from the Apostle Paul he began by simply saying, “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant.” With those words Paul was beginning a lesson on gifts given to Christians by the Holy Spirit. As he stated he was setting out to lead the Corinthians out of their ignorance into a better understanding of spiritual gifts. But this would be more than a doctrinal lesson for the Corinthians. They would learn that they were gifted people. The Holy Spirit had given them the gift of faith and the Holy Spirit had given them gifts for serving others. May we too be led to understand that those truths apply to us as well. The Lord of the Church is still speaking through these inspired words saying to each of us, “You are gifted! You too have been given the gift of faith. And you too have been given gifts to serve others.”

Perhaps I am stating the obvious when I say that any intellectual, artistic, musical, or athletic abilities that a child has are gifts. No child prodigy decided to be born a genius, an artist, or an athletic superstar. Yes, it is true that people like Mozart, Picaso, and Tiger Woods had parents that helped them develop their gifts but clearly they were gifted at birth with abilities above and beyond those of the average person.

In a similar way none of us can take credit for being gifted in the area of spiritual things. It was the Holy Spirit that first of all gave us the gift of faith in Christ. And it is also the Holy Spirit that has given each of us gifts to use for serving others.

After making the point that the Corinthian Christians were gifted because the Holy Spirit had given them the gift of faith Paul went on to remind them that they also had been given gifts for serving others. “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” There wasn’t a single believer at the Church in Corinth that could say he or she had no spiritual gift to use in service to God and others. Each of them had at least one gift to be used for serving others for the “common good” of all.

So are things any different for us? No. The same truth applies to each and every one of us. You and I are gifted. The Holy Spirit has given us at least one gift to use in service to others.

So what do these gifts look like for us today? “Serving” is such a broad category that it could include a nearly endless list of tasks. Helping in any ministry, mission trip, or special event the church is doing.  We have many things that need to be done each week to hold services such as cleaning, landscaping, loading message and song slides, video, lights, sound, kids classes, youth group, Connect Groups, and the list could go on and on. Obviously not everyone is able to teach a kids class, youth lesson or coordinate a Connect Group but if you are asked consider giving it a try. Maybe the Lord has given you the gift of encouragement. You are able to show genuine concern for others and lift their spirits with words of encouragement. As you look at your financial blessings perhaps the Holy Spirit has given you the gift of contributing to the needs of others.  Always remember that you have at least one spiritual gift to use for others. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you find it and motivate you to use it.

Research on child prodigies or gifted and talented children you shows one common problem that most of them experience. Gifted children are often bored in school or with life in general. Very often they are never challenged to use their gifts and so they waste them. I believe the same thing happens to many Christians. Their gifts go unused because they are never challenged or asked to put their gifts to use. I am asking every one of you right now to look honestly at yourself, find your spiritual gift or gifts, and put it or them to use in service to others.

“You are gifted!” Did you ever think someone would say that about you? Perhaps your reactions would be, “Who, me, gifted? I don’t think so!” Well, God says it about you. He says you are gifted. You may not be able to play music like Mozart, paint like Picasso, or use a golf club like Tiger Woods. But, nonetheless, you are gifted. The Holy Spirit has given you the gift of faith. And since he has given you the gift of faith you can be certain the Holy Spirit has also given you gifts for serving others. As gifted people may we now use our gifts for Christ and His body,

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Want to Discover Your Spiritual Gifts? You Can Here.

This week we are looking at the topic of Serving and Spiritual Gifts.  Do you know your spiritual gifts?  Would you like too?  Take the survey from the web link below and you will!

http://www.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1

The following Spiritual Gifts Survey is a discovery tool that provides you with a personalized analysis. Not a test, but a simple questionnaire giving you a profile of your God given spiritual gifts.

Discovering and exercising your God-given spiritual gifts allows you to experience maximum fulfillment with minimum frustration in your Christian life and ministry.

INSTRUCTIONS

This questionnaire will help you identify your God-given spiritual gifts. While there are many spiritual gifts, this evaluation covers the nine task-oriented gifts used in daily life to do the work of Christian ministry. Every Christ Follower has a dominant gift and many possess more than one. Through this analysis, you will find out in which areas you are “less” gifted and will also discover your dominant task-oriented gift. You can then begin to concentrate on further developing your dominant gift as you exercise it in daily life and in your local church ministry.

The following 108 questions or statements deal with your feelings and desires, so be sure to let your responses reflect your own opinions of yourself. As you read each question or statement, click the button in front of the most accurate answer: Almost Always (if the statement fits you 70% to 100% of the time), Occasionally (if the statement fits you 40% to 70% of the time), or Not Very Often (if the statement fits you less than 40% of the time). Remember, this is a self-evaluation; there are no “right” or “wrong” answers.

When you have completed the questionnaire, you will be able to view a bar graph of your scores for each gift, a description of your dominant gift, and several pages of personal analysis. You will also have the opportunity to print out the results.

Click Here to Begin:  http://www.churchgrowth.org/cgi-cg/gifts.cgi?intro=1

Thanks so much for your interest in Spiritual Gifts

I pray you are encouraged and empowered as you discover how the Holy Spirit has gifted you for ministry.   Let me know if you have any questions.  I am saying a prayer for you right now.

Darrell

 

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Flee! And Other Ways to Resist Sexual Immorality.

Why should we avoid sexual immorality?  In 1 Corinthians 6: 15-19 Paul gives us two truths to help us resist sexual immorality and then two action steps.  He expands on this idea of how our physical selves (bodies) are connected to our spiritual selves.  He points out two truths about our bodies the Corinthians had forgotten.  These are the same two truths that many of us have forgotten today, remember:

  1. Sex is not only a physical union but also a spiritual union.

Paul writes,15  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never!
 (vs. 15) Notice the sentence begins with the phrase, “do you not know?” He asks that again in vs. 16 and in vs. 19. Paul is saying, “You know this, I’ve taught you this, but you’re not living by this, so let me remind you about it.”  This is how we are many times. We know better, but we choose not to live by what we know.   How many of us didn’t know immorality is wrong?  Of course we do.  God’s Spirit reminds us when we are about to sin. But many people ignore that still, small voice. They don’t live by what they know.  This is one reason God inspired Paul to write this letter. It’s not just for the Corinthians. It’s to remind us to live by what we know.

We may know but need to be reminded of is that our bodies are parts of Christ’s body.  They’re intimately connected with Christ, so we’re obligated to serve Him and do as He pleases.  Think of it like this. My hands are part of my body. They do what I tell them to do. I give the orders for my hands. They’re connected to me.  How would it be if my hands rebelled and started slapping my face?  It’s the same way when we use our bodies in ways we know Christ our Head would not want us to.

Paul is warning us about compartmentalizing our lives.  We think we can be involved in immorality with our bodies and somehow have it not affect our relationship with God.  We think we can isolate this one area of our lives, our sexuality, from our relationship with Christ.  We pray, we go to church, we read the Bible, we do all those things, but in this one area of our lives, we think we can do what we want; it won’t infringe on our relationship with God.

But that’s impossible because our bodies are part of Jesus’ body. Ours is the flesh He uses to do His will in this world. He’s our head.

This leads to a second truth people forget when it comes to sex.

  1. The physical union of sex creates a lasting spiritual and emotional bond.

Look at verses 16–17. “Do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh.’ ” This is part of the joy of marriage this physical union but it’s more than physical. Sex is an act that unites two people in a one-flesh relationship. The idea here is a strong spiritual bond is created.  The Greek word “joins” in vs. 16 was used to refer to glue. It reminds us that when two people come together that way they’re glued together. I can’t help but think of Crazy Glue. If you apply that glue properly, the bond that’s created is actually stronger and harder to break than the thing itself. If you try to break that bond you can’t do so without doing great damage to whatever it is you’re gluing together like your fingers.

Paul is saying the sexual union is like that. It unites us, not just in body, but in soul as well.  Sex, whether we realize it or not, acts like glue in a relationship. C.S. Lewis once said:  “Each time a man and a woman enter into a sexual relationship, a spiritual bond is established between them that must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured.”

We talk about safe sex, but we can’t put a condom on our heart.  Sex is far more than just a physical act. It’s an act that involves the whole person body and soul. There is no such thing as casual sex.  Don’t ever buy that lie. Something mysterious and deep takes place in this union. This is why the Word of God absolutely insists that sex be practiced within the covenant of marriage.  Sex is a life-uniting act and to do it justice sex has to be experienced in the context of a lifelong union, and that always means marriage.  Within that context sex is a beautiful expression of intimacy and vulnerability that should be celebrated.

So even though sex with no commitment can be enjoyed on a certain level, the end result of immorality is a sense of hollowness, frustration, and aloneness. In this way it is not beneficial.

But Paul says that for those who are believers it even has a greater impact. Look at vs. 17, “But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with him.”  Just as two people joined in sex are one flesh, so those who come into a relationship with the Lord are joined with Him. Our spirit has been glued with the Lord’s Spirit.  So, when you engage in immorality, you’re actually dragging the Lord along with you. After all, as a Christian You’re united with Him. You’re one spirit with Him. You can’t separate your spirit from your body, and so you are involving the Lord Himself in this act.

As Christians we are united with Jesus so when we sin He feels the pain of that sin. As Paul says, our bodies, “are temples of the Holy Spirit, Who is in you, Whom you have received from God.  We are not our own; we were bought at a price…so we must honor God with our bodies.” Jesus lives IN us He paid the penalty for our sins so these bodies are not our own. This is not our real estate. Jesus lives here now.

I like what John MacArthur says about this verse: “Could you imagine committing sexual immorality in your church sanctuary?”  No way. But that’s no worse than what happens every time a believer is involved in sexual immorality because our bodies are the sanctuary of God. God dwells in here. In a very real sense when we disobey God’s loving laws regarding sex we kick Jesus off the throne of our lives. We commit idolatry.  With all this in mind what should we do when faced with today’s distorted view of sex?  Here are two action steps to avoid sexual immorality.

  1. FLEE!

In verse 18 Paul literally says, “Flee immorality. Flee and keep on fleeing.” He doesn’t just say stop immorality. He uses much stronger words flee from it, run from it. I like what Wayne Wright says: “The best weapon against immorality is geography.” In other words, get as far away as possible. Our sexual urges are so great and so powerful that we can’t afford to hang in there and duke it out with temptation because if we do, we’re going to lose. Sooner or later you’re going to lose that battle if you don’t flee from it, if you don’t run as far away as you can.

Essentially, we must get out of the situation, whatever it is, that might lead us into immorality. This includes being very careful with the kind of things that we allow ourselves to be exposed to. I’m speaking of the kinds of books we read, the kinds of movies we watch, and the kinds of websites we visit. Many times we justify reading or watching trash because it has a good story or interesting characters. But it impacts us it changes our views.  So steer clear of it.

  1. The second action step to avoid sexual immorality is to decide daily to HONOR GOD in our body.

Now why should we honor God in our bodies?  Our bodies have been purchased by God with the precious blood of his Son. Our bodies aren’t our own.  Think of it, would you take your new I-Phone 6 and use it as a ping pong paddle? Sure it’s big enough but you’d never do that because it cost too much.  Plus, if you’re in the same plan I am until I pay it off the phone company owns it. Would you take a rental car and spray paint silly patterns on the hood? No. In the same way, we have been bought at tremendous cost.

Our body is under new management. Lets’ see our bodies and treat our bodies a way that honors the One who owns it.

Darrell

 

Sources:  Mark Mitchell’s message on this text on Preaching Today has been very helpful to me along with Mark Adams and John Mac Arthur Commentary.

 

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Sexual Immorality? – 2 Questions to 2 Rationalizations

It’s my life I am free to do what I want!”  That’s the first common rationalization.

In verse 12 Paul gives his response to this kind of thinking. He says, “Yes–I have the right to do anything,” but not everything is beneficial.“  I have the right to do anything” but I will not be mastered by anything.”

Paul says, “Yes you are free to use your God-given rights any way you want to but there are two questions you really need to answer before exercising your freedom.”

  1. If I do what I want sexually, is it beneficial?”

Before exercise our rights, we should decide whether or not it is helpful, not just for us but for others.

For instance did you know that statistics say that people who live together before they marry are twice as likely to divorce as are those who wait until marriage? And there are higher levels of abuse? So is using your “sexual freedom” to live together is beneficial?  Research says no. We say too much about STD’s so I won’t mention them, but its obvious the ways they are not beneficial. But what about unwanted pregnancies are they beneficial?

And what about the people who are on the other end of these kinds of sinful acts? I wonder if the Corinthians thought about the lives of those young ladies from the temple of Aphrodite those “sacred” prostitutes that came down into the streets of Corinth every night. Did they think of those young girls when they exercised their Christian freedom?  How many men today think of the young women on the computer screen as they watch pornography?  Is it helpful to exploit that girl who is someone’s daughter?  Don’t these kinds of actions promote the sex slave trade?

We live in a very self-centered society. In our minds we are the center of the universe. Think about it we have I-phones, I-pads and I-pods, American I-dol, I-tunes, and Facebook with it’s “I like” options.  All this reflects our cultures tendency to care about ourselves often to the expense of others. And this is seen most clearly in society’s sexual mores. When researchers at the University of Texas at Austin asked 2,000 people why they have sex, there were plenty of answers 237, to be precise.  Here are some of them. They finished the sentence, “I have sex because”:

“[I wanted] to boost my social status.”

“My partner was famous.”

“[I wanted] to get a raise or promotion.”

“Someone dared me.”

“I wanted to punish myself.”

“I lost a bet.”

“to keep warm.”

“Because my hormones were out of control.”

“[Sex] seemed like good exercise.”

“I wanted to give someone a sexually transmitted disease.”

Too many people don’t care about others they don’t consider the pain their sin brings. Sex is just another way they put themselves first.

But the fact is, sexual immorality is NEVER beneficial. In fact, it always hurts everyone involved. More about that later.

  1. The second question Paul says we must answer before using our freedom to sin is this: “Is this behavior enslaving?”

He says, “I have the right to do all things but I will not be mastered by anything.”  So the thing to ask yourself is this. “As I exercise my freedom in Christ, will I become enslaved to that very thing that I’m doing? Will it end up ruling my life? Will it become an addiction?”  This is especially important when we talk about things that pertain to the body like sex, because the body can develop dependencies on things.  And when it does, we become a slave to whatever that thing is. In an attempt to satisfy that desire people continue to chase the counterfeit and that only makes them long for the real thing. I think it’s ironic that in the name of Christian freedom we can actually become slaves of the very things we claim we can do because of our freedom!

Wendy Shalit is a feminist writer who has put out a number of provocative books calling for women to recover their sexual modesty as a protest against a world that has objectified them in the name of sexual freedom. Her writings have caused an uproar among people who labeled them as “behind the times” labeled them as sexually regressive and oppressive to other “free-er” women. But surprisingly her writings have caused a parallel stir among many women who have become disenchanted with the sexual revolution and the whole new set of oppressions that came along with it. For example, Shalit points out that in the name of freedom the sexual revolution puts down women who want to act and dress more modestly. She writes, “Today’s culture says, ‘You’d better be having many hook-ups or else!  Shyness will not be tolerated!  Ours is supposed to be a time of great freedom. Yet we have ended up letting others dictate our choices.” Shalit goes on, “A woman may be conveying to the world by her bashfulness, ‘I have my own compass, thank you. I have my own sense of what is good and what is right, and it’s not always what everyone else says.’”

Here’s something else. The sexual revolution has not only dictated to women who they have to be, but it has actually restrained them further by putting them at the mercy of men.  Have you ever wondered what happened to that old “behind the times” concept of chivalry where women were treated as queens? Have you ever wondered why these days young men don’t come to the door when they pick up their dates or why men don’t open the door for women any more “old fashioned” things like that? It’s because today’s culture says they don’t have to. So Shalit is right women are less free and more enslaved today than they were in the good ole days before the feminist movement “freed” them.

The second rationalization we see both in Corinth and in our culture. People say, “I can do what I want sexually because it’s natural”

Look at 13–14 where Paul says “Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them.  Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.”  Now, Paul hasn’t changed subjects here from sex to eating. This is just another excuse that people then and now use to justify their immorality. The idea is that sex is just like eating. In the same way that we have a natural and God-given need to satisfy our stomach with food we have this natural and God-given need to satisfy our body’s sexual hunger.  When we get hungry and head for the refrigerator, so our culture says, why should it be any different with sex? Why object to something that’s perfectly natural and God-given? The following quote from M. Scott Peck reveals the flaw in those arguments: “Calling it natural does not mean it is essential or beneficial or unchangeable behavior. It is also natural to defecate in our pants and never brush our teeth. Yet we teach ourselves to do the unnatural until the unnatural itself becomes second nature. Indeed, all self-discipline might be defined as teaching ourselves to do the unnatural.”

Here’s something else I want us to note. With this rationalization that there should be no rules when it comes to sex because after all it’s just a natural function with this way of thinking we come face-to-face with a very important truth: The world, regardless of all the emphasis it places on it, has a very low view of sex. The world sees sex as another bodily function like eating.

There’s nothing special about it, nothing unique, nothing worth protecting.  But, as we’ll see shortly, the Biblical view of sex is that sex touches us and affects us at a much deeper level than eating.  It’s something that involves not just our physical body but our soul and our spirit as well.  Bible-believing Christians actually have a MUCH higher view of sex than our culture. And that’s what Paul gets at in his response. He says, “Yes, food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food. I don’t disagree with that.” But then he says, “God will destroy them both.”  In other words, although it’s true what you say about the stomach and food, all that’s just temporary.  But sex involves something altogether different because it has a spiritual aspect. Sex impacts us on a soul level so it’s not at all like eating. Plus, our bodies were made to further God’s eternal purposes not to satisfy some mere sexual appetite.

And this principle is what Paul deals with in the rest of the passage. He expands on this idea of how our physical selves (bodies) are connected to our spiritual selves.  Paul gives us two truths to help us resist sexual immorality and then two action steps.  We will look at them in the next post.

Darrell

Sources:  Mark Mitchell’s message on this text on Preaching Today has been very helpful to me along with Mark Adams and John Mac Arthur Commentary.

 

 

 

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