Pt. 3 of the Series: “The Ghost”
May 24, 2020
1 Corinthians 12:1-11
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. 2 You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. 3 Therefore I want you to know 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 distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.
Maybe you will remember me saying that when I was in seminary, I had a part time job working at a Friendly’s Ice Cream restaurant. For somebody who just loves, loves, loves ice cream, that was like a kid in a candy store. I was in ice cream heaven. And, it showed, literally. I gained 50 pounds working there. That is the truth. That ice cream landed on my belly and my butt and everywhere else. I was a heavyweight.
Of course, at Friendly’s we had to know how to make ice cream cones. We would practice making the perfect ice cream cone. We couldn’t just glob the ice cream on the cone. It had to look really tempting so that when you presented it to the customer, they would start salivating just seeing the cone. And, it had to be the right amount, too. We had to weigh the practice cones until we could scoop a really good-looking cone that weighed 3 ounces. That’s what they were to weigh, 3 ounces. So, I would scoop the perfect cone and hand it to the customer. But, that is not where ended. If somebody scooped me the perfect ice cream cone, a tantalizing Oreo cookie ice cream cone, I could take that cone in my hot, sweaty little hand, I could feast my eyes on the wonder of that frozen confection, but it better not stop there. That ice cream cone, as good as it might look, is not worth a thing, unless you lick the cone. You’ve got to lick the cone. You’ve got to eat it. And, mama, that’s when it is good. Then it is worth something. Then, you can understand why I gained 50 pounds.
Now, today, in our series about the Holy Spirit, I want to talk about something that is like an ice cream cone. I want to talk about something the Holy Spirit gives us, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Today, I want to talk about spiritual gifts. We are going to describe what spiritual gifts aren’t and what they are. We are going to talk about who has been given a spiritual gift and how you can find out what your spiritual gifts are. But, here’s the deal, here’s the bottom line; spiritual gifts must be used. They must be used. Just as an ice cream cone is not much good if you don’t lick it, you’ve got to lick the cone, so a spiritual gift isn’t worth much if you don’t use it. You’ve got to use your spiritual gifts. That’s the bottom line of what I want to say today.
Now, maybe this is a new teaching for you. Maybe you have never heard about spiritual gifts before. Maybe you are like someone who has never heard about ice cream before. I can’t imagine that but maybe you don’t know what ice cream is. You don’t have a clue as to what spiritual gifts are, much less what yours are. In our Scripture for today, Paul begins by saying, “Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.” God does not want you to be ignorant about spiritual gifts. Yet, one study found that 87% of Christians don’t know about spiritual gifts. Nearly 9 out of 10 Christians have no idea what a spiritual gift is or they don’t know what their spiritual gifts are or they aren’t using them. Almost 90% of Christians are uninformed about Spiritual gifts. Let me see a show of hands. How many of you don’t know what a spiritual gift is? If you are uninformed about spiritual gifts, this will be a great sermon for you. I know because I wrote it.
For others of you, this teaching is old hat. You have not only heard about spiritual gifts but you know what yours are. The question is; have you licked the cone? Maybe you have discovered your spiritual gifts but that’s as far as things have gone in your life. Maybe you aren’t using your spiritual gifts. Maybe you aren’t licking the cone. That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to lick the cone. Just as life is always better with ice cream, so life is always better when you know what your spiritual gifts are and when you use those gifts in your life. That is part of the abundant life that Jesus promised. That is the next thing we are going to delve into in our series on the Holy Spirit. We are going to see how the Holy Spirit gives us “Spiritual Gifts.” So, let’s see
- What Spiritual Gifts are Not
- Spiritual gifts are not natural talents
It is a spiritual gift. It is a Holy Spirit-ual gift. A spiritual gift could be something new that comes to Christians when they come to faith. Before they come to faith they don’t have this spiritual gift but when they come to faith then they have it. A spiritual gift could be something new.
Or, a spiritual gift could take a natural ability and totally transform it. Listen up on this. This is some deep theology here. I know because I wrote this stuff. Actually, this next bit comes from a pastor named John Piper. John Piper says that faith is the root of spiritual gifts. He says that “faith looks away from our own resources and our own natural abilities and embraces the all-sufficiency of Christ.” He says that faith turns natural abilities into spiritual gifts. So, a gifted teacher is converted to Christ and stops leaning on her own understanding, on her own abilities but uses this ability to transmit God’s grace to others. You might have a natural ability to sing. It becomes a spiritual gift when you view that ability as something given by the Holy Spirit and you find ways to use it for His kingdom. You might be good with numbers or are an able administrator or really good at hospitality and those abilities become spiritual gifts as you recognize that they come from God and you want to find ways to use those abilities for God’s kingdom. So, first, spiritual gifts are not natural talents. They are spiritual gifts. They are Holy Spirit-ual gifts.
- Spiritual gifts are not just given to an elite few
Spiritual gifts are not only for pastors or evangelists or Family Life Ministers.
“There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:6
All people have spiritual gifts. Each one is given spiritual gifts. All Christians. If you are a Christian, you have spiritual gifts. You may not know what a spiritual gift is. You may not know what yours is, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have them. You do. Spiritual gifts are not just given to an elite few.
- Spiritual gifts are not something to boast about. Then again, they are
What in the world does that mean? Spiritual gifts are not something to boast about because they are a gift of the Holy Spirit. The one to get the praise for a spiritual gift is the Holy Spirit. So, you have the spiritual gift of music. You can sing like a lark. Who gets the praise for that? The Holy Spirit. Somebody compliments you for your voice. You can thank them and then direct their praise to the Holy Spirit. You are good with numbers. That is your spiritual gift. The Holy Spirit is the One who gave that to you. You can direct your praise to him. You are good with administration. Same thing. The Holy Spirit is praised. If somebody gives you a new golf club for you Father’s Day , you don’t run to your friends and say, “Nanny, nanny poo poo, I’ve got the newest Callaway driver and you don’t.” Well, I might do that. But, really, it was your spouse who gets the praise for giving you such a nice gift for Father’s Day. Just for the record—Nancy, if you’re listening—I don’t need a new driver. It was only an illustration.
So, spiritual gifts are not something to boast about. But, then again, they are. They are when you realize that by you having that spiritual gift, you know that the Holy Spirit is indeed at work in you and that is something to boast about. The Scripture says, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
- Spiritual gifts are not just for you
Yes, you can feel good that the Holy Spirit has given you your gifts. But, listen to how they are to be used;
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others. ” 1 Peter 4:10
“…the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7
It is a communal affair. A church has a mission to perform. It has a ministry. Your spiritual gift is to help your church do the mission and ministry God has called it to do. Your spiritual gift is not just for you. It is for others. It is for the common good. The question becomes, how can the Holy Spirit use me and my spiritual gift to help my church do something bigger than myself?
- Spiritual gifts are not signs of spiritual maturity
You can’t say that you have this certain gift and that makes you a more spiritual person than somebody with that gift. That was what was happening in the city of Corinth. Some Christians had spectacular gifts like speaking in tongues and they would say that having that gift showed they were better than somebody with a behind the scenes gift like hospitality. That thinking created division in the church and Paul argued that having any one gift does not make you any more spiritually mature than any other gift. In verses 8-11 of out Scripture for today, Paul lists a number of gifts. He says that one has this gift and someone else has that gift but in every instance, Paul comes back to the fact that these gifts were given by this same Spirit.
Think about it like this. You have two kids. One is good at music and the arts and the other is good at sports and athletics. Which kid is better? Of course, the answer is neither. You love each of them equally as much. They are just different. In Paul’s words, here is the bottom line;
“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.” 1 Corinthians 12:11
So, spiritual gifts are not natural talents. They are not just for an elite few and they are not something to boast about except in boasting in the Lord. They are not just for you and they are not a sign of spiritual maturity. So,
- What is a Spiritual Gift?
- What Types of Spiritual Gifts are There?
There are 4 lists of spiritual gifts in the Bible. Those places are 1 Corinthians 12, our text for today, 1 Peter 4, Ephesians 4, and Romans 12:4-6. There is no standard number of gifts. Some people find 16 gifts in Scripture, others find 26 or 27. And, it is possible that spiritual gifts are still evolving. For example, could we say that technology could be a 21st century spiritual gift? Here at Risen Christ, we use 20 spiritual gifts. I am not going to delve into all of them today but I will take a quick look at the gifts outlined in one of those passages, Romans 12. There, Paul lists 7 spiritual gifts. Let me briefly look at those 7.
Prophecy is the ability to speak out on behalf of God. We think of a dual thrust of prophecy; fore telling and forthtelling. Many times, we think of a prophet as someone who predicts the future. Think of the prophets of the Old Testament. They would talk about things that were going to happen in the future. Sometimes, people think that prophecy is kind of weird, like looking into a crystal ball or something. That is not Christian prophecy at all. Perhaps a different way to think of a modern day prophet is to think of someone like George Barna. George Barna looks at surveys and trends in the church to give an indication of what the church can expect in the future. I see him as a modern day prophet, a foreteller. But, prophets are also those who forth tell. In that way of thinking, what I do as a preacher is a forthteller. I am speaking forth God’s word. I am speaking God’s word into a culture, into people’s lives in the hopes of bringing about change. The church needs prophets. A second spiritual gift in Romans 12 is
Serving is just what it says, doing something for someone. Some of you have the gift of serving. I heard about that when Deacon Al delivered palms to our Risen Christ family for Palm Sunday. I heard about that as the DeRue family and the Huff family delivered flowers for Easter. I hear about people making cookies and making dinners and just giving a call to someone who may be lonely. These people want to serve. It is part of their spiritual DNA. They say, “I’ve got to do this. I live for this.” And, they don’t just do it to make themselves feel good. Making themselves feel good is a by-product of serving. It is not the reason to serve. The reason to serve is to benefit someone else. The next spiritual gift Paul lists is
There are people who dive deeply into the Bible, looking at all of the nuances of a word or phrase and then convey that in clear ways so that others can learn. They want to help people learn. Next is
These people en-courage, they give courage. They are so very good at lifting others up, at building people. They see someone doing something well and they are all over that. They email them or text them or call them and they compliment them. They build them up. Oh, how the church needs encouragers.
Pastor Craig Groeschel says that his wife, Amy, has the spiritual gift of giving. I guess she likes to give so much, that she and Pastor Craig arrived at a budget for her to give away. She tells Pastor Craig that for her birthday, she wants a bigger giving budget. She wants to give away more. My wife, Nancy has the spiritual gift of giving. She is all of the time giving away stuff. If Nancy sees that you need something she has, she will give it to you. She is all of the time giving away our stuff. SHE IS ALL OF THE TIME GIVING AWAY MY STUFF! If Nancy sees that you need some socks, she might give away my socks. I might go to my sock drawer and there are no socks. She has given them away. She is all of the time giving away my stuff. Something else I want you to realize; my sock drawer is one drawer down from my underwear drawer. I’m just saying. She is all of the time giving away my stuff. She is a giver.
Leadership is about the big picture. It is about vision. Someone with the gift of leadership will be able to guide a group toward a vision, a goal. The Bible says that without a vision, the people perish. Leaders are so needed.
Mercy is showing kindness. Some people’s hearts just breaks for other folks. It just breaks. Mercy is showing kindness to them.
In order to better understand these various spiritual gifts, Pastor Craig uses, what he calls, the apply-pie demonstration. It goes like this;
In Paul’s list from Romans 12, he says that this person has this gift so let that person use their gift. Let them use their gift. He says again and again that you need to use your spiritual gift. Are you licking the cone? Are you licking the cone? I mean, what if you saw the apple pie plop right off of that person’s lap and you can do something about it, but you don’t. You could have done something, but instead, you decide to do nothing. Again, you need to use your gift. Next,
- How You Can Be Open to Spiritual Gifts
Here are the 3 D’s. You can Discover your gifts, Develop them and Deploy them.
If you don’t know what your spiritual gifts are, you can discover them by doing the following things.
- Study what the Bible says about spiritual gifts
I’ve already given you the places to look in 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, 1 Peter 4 and Ephesians 4. Study what God’s Word says.
2. Ask God to show you your gifts
He wants you to use your gifts so He will show you what yours are.
- Know what you do well
That is an indicator of what your spiritual gifts are. If you have the spiritual gift of wisdom, you may find people coming to ask what to do about a situation in their lives. If you don’t so something well, it is probably not your spiritual gift. I am not good at art. I can pretty well master stick figures. I can draw some stick figures, let me tell you. But, anything beyond that and I’m in trouble. Art is obviously not my spiritual gift.
- Take a test
We have a spiritual gifts inventory on our web site. A test like that one will give you a good idea what your spiritual gifts are.
Give different things a try until you settle on what your spiritual gifts are. Author Elmer Towns said, “Do everything you can until you are 40, then settle down and do what you do best.” So, first, discover your spiritual gifts.
If you want to learn to play the piano, you have to practice. The more you practice, the better you get at it. Develop your spiritual gifts. Learn more about your specific gifts. Seek to strengthen them. Practice for the more you practice your spiritual gifts, the better you will become.
Nike them. What is Nike’s slogan, “Just do it.” Deploy those gifts. Just go out there and do them.
Remember, 87% of Christians are uninformed about spiritual gifts. They don’t know what spiritual gifts are or they don’t know how to use their specific gifts. They are ignorant. But, you’ve got to like the cone. You need to lick the cone.
We have an unwritten rule in our house. The rule is when you get a gift for a birthday or holiday and you don’t like it, please, please, please take it back. Take it back. It is much better to take it back then for that gift to sit in a closet somewhere and never be used. So, we kind of say, don’t insult the giver of the gift by not using the gift.
Don’t insult the Giver of your spiritual gifts by not using them. What good is a perfectly built ice cream cone all by itself? Nothing at all until you lick the cone. You’ve got to lick the cone. Lick the cone of your spiritual gifts. They aren’t just pretty accoutrements for your faith life. Using your spiritual gifts is part of the abundant life God has in store for you. Just think, God wants to use little ol’ you to work with other Christians to do something huge for His Kingdom. He wants to use you! But, they aren’t worth a thing unless you use them. That’s the take away for today. Use your spiritual gifts. Discover, Develop and Deploy them. When it comes to spiritual gifts, lick the cone. You’ve got to lick the cone.
In Jesus’ name,