Chuck handed his Pastor the keys to a brand new John Deere X739 Signature Series Lawn Tractor. The V-Twin, liquid-cooled iTorque power system with electronic fuel injection puts out twenty-six horses. The 60-inch Edge High-Capacity mower deck with MulchControl effortlessly chews through the thickest grass and soggiest leaf piles. The hydrostatic four-wheel drive with TwinTouch control pedals powers this mower uphill, downhill, and side-hill, through swampy low-spots and over dried out ruts. The 20-bushel Click-N-Go Material Collection System can devour every leaf on the 4-acre church property and spit out the waste at the touch of a button. Make no mistake about it, this beast would keep the outside of God’s house immaculate.
Everyone saw the advantage. Actually, they had no choice. Chuck stood at the front doors of the church just beaming. As worshippers filed through those doors Sunday morning, Chuck made to point out the new tractor. “I spent $20,000 on that for the church.”
Impressed? Probably not. You can see past the object given and pinpoint the motivation for that generosity. Chuck did not care if God received the honor, respect, and praise owed him. That thought never enters the mind. No, Chuck bought expensive equipment in order to buy praise for himself.
The heart’s endless quest for attention hinders Christian service. That is why God asks you today: ‘What is your motivation for serving?’ Because Christian service has only one starting point: God’s grace. The reason we serve is because God’s Grace Motivates Christian Service. We are unworthy servants. So, We only do our duty.
You could summarize Luke 17:1-10 with those words: ‘Christian service.’ In fact, that single thread connects each verse together. Jesus said to his disciples: Temptations to sin are sure to come… Temptation, that is, a desire to do what God forbids— and you (and I) encounter no shortage of temptation. Think about the powerful craving to get revenge when that careless driver cuts you off. Or revisit the strong, greedy impulses to hold back money from God. Temptations surround you (and me), hoping to drag our attention and hearts away from the Word of God! (Revelation 12:9)
Understand, being tempted is not wrong. Telling the devil, ‘No! I will not do evil. Go away!’ is not sinful. Jesus makes it clear: [W]oe to the one through whom they come! Acting on temptation is wrong. So, Pay attention to yourselves! Temptation can suddenly seize you and steal you away from serving God with your life.
Do you see where temptation can appear? Jesus highlights two areas in life. Two areas where you (and I) are called to serve each other, but can serve for the wrong reasons. If your brother sins, rebuke him… Serve by approaching him out of heartfelt care and concern. Identify how this action drags him away from God and closer to death. Identify the evil so that he turns away from it and turns to life! [I]f he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.” If he keeps trespassing on your property and he keeps coming to you, tears in eyes, heart torn, pleading: ‘I am so sorry, forgive me!’ then forgive. Release him from guilt. Assure him of a restored standing between you and him. If she keeps trashing your reputation you and keeps returning saying, ‘I am so sorry! I am trying hard to speak nice. Please forgive me!’ then forgive. Do not hold a grudge; do not seek revenge. Put the offense in the past; consider it: ‘Paid in full.’ You serve by bringing the forgiveness of Christ into life.
Is that something you want to do? To be honest, If [my] brother sins, [I will] rebuke him. I can point out faults. “Hey! You cussed! Don’t do that! …And you— you hit your sister! Stop that! …And you think no one saw your car at home last Sunday morning? I did on the way back from church.” I love rebuking people because pointing out someone else’s failures makes me look superior— like I’m a better Christian than my fellow believers! And forgiving— well, that’s a little more difficult. After all, that no-good, trespassing neighbor keeps spooking away my deer and I have to deal with it. I have no deer for deer season, and he will still have something to hunt. It hurts when my friend does not appreciate my help. It makes me feel unimportant. Her attacks are not showers of heaping praise I want to hear. The sister who always argues? Well, why forgive her? She needs me, I do not need her. So, let her taste what life is like without my kind advice, my help, my encouragement. Let her suffer.
Do you see it? Right beside selfless service stands the temptation for pride. I rebuke the sinner, not to protect a soul, but to exalt my moral superiority! I refuse to forgive because I consider that weakness and my pride will suffer. People will consider me ‘a push over’ and think that I can absorb abuse. I do not want pain, I want praise. Even when I put the encouragement of Christ into action I am tempted to gloat! “I forgave the bully! I am so strong!... I still speak to my brother and he drives me nuts. I am so loving!... I brought back that member who has not been in church for a while!... Look at me! I am such a great Christian!” If you think your Christian living is one great big gift to God, then you have fallen into pride.
Do you know what Jesus gives pride? A nice pillow-sized stone. It would be better… if a millstone were hung around [the] neck and cast into the sea so that no one else imitates your self-centered living!
Which makes it quite strange that God does do that. God does not hang your pride around your neck and watch you sink straight into the depths of hell. Instead, he takes your pride, ties it around Jesus’ neck, and lets it drag his own Son into death.
You see, Jesus stands in Luke 17 not as a Teacher or a Taskmaster. He stands a servant. He deserves all praise because he withstands temptation (Matthew 4:1-11). He deserves all praise because he forgives sin (Mark 2:9-12). He deserves all praise because he literally comes to rebuke the sin that was killing us (Luke 19:10). Yet, instead of praise, he receives insults. He receives an untruthful death-sentence. He receives our punishment. Jesus comes not to be served, not to stoke his pride, but to set aside his crown as King and fill you with his innocent life! (Mark 10:45).
That is called ‘grace.’ Love not deserved, but love God chooses to shower on you (and me)! Just think: do you deserve God punished for your pride? Are you so awesome, so wonderful that God desperately needed to trade Jesus for you? By no means! You (and I) deserve death, but God gives us life! Jesus lives to give you (and me) the greatest title of all: a servant in the household of the almighty God!
God’s Grace Motivates Christian Service. What makes us even want to care about someone else? God’s Grace. God has changed you from a death-row rebel into unworthy servants. Servants who seek no self-praise. Rather, servants who ponder this gift of love and see only opportunities to do our duty.
“Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? Obviously, we do not have slaves, but we do expect people to carry out the responsibilities associated with their jobs. Do teachers thank students for doing their homework? No! A student is expected to do his work. That is part of learning, that is literally what a student does; he learns. Do you thank your [grand]children when they finish their chores or brush their teeth? No! If you command a [grand]child to clean her room, that child (who lives under you authority) is expected to obey you. Do you praise parents for staying up all night with an infant and then going to work tired and later cleaning the house and running errands? No! Parents have a responsibility to raise a child at any cost! We do not give credit to someone who merely does their job. Those with a title are expected to complete the responsibilities of that title.
In the same way, God has prepared you (and me) for Christian service (Ephesians 2:10). ‘Christian’— because the Holy Spirit has put Christ in our hearts. ‘Service’— because your (and my) actions address needs. If you (and I) belong to the household of God, then God expects us to live as people who are part of the household of God. God will not shower you with bonus points because you approached your son about living with his girlfriend outside of marriage. You will not earn extra credit because you forgave a stubborn father. God does not fist-pump the air because you made it to worship today. You already belong to God. You are not doing him favors. You are not earning extra slices of heaven. You only do your duty; you live as God expects a Christian to live.
That might be difficult to do. Perhaps you find it difficult to forgive. She accused you of some horrible things, when, in reality, you gave her money, spoke up for her, and helped her. Maybe you wrestle with pride; you really want self-praise for sharing faith in public or giving $5.00 to the homeless on the corner. I mean, you did something no one else did. So, where do you turn to keep pride in check? The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you. Here’s the point: God gives strength to do difficult tasks.
How does he give strength? You focus on him. You do not see a stubborn sister or homeless man. You see Jesus. You see Jesus forgive you—even though you approached him seven times for the same act. He never brings up that shame again. That’s what you see in front of you. So, you can say: ‘I forgive you. I forgive because I have been forgiven much more free of charge.’ You see Jesus on the street-corner. You look at the money that is always there because God always makes sure that it’s there. So, you give. You lose nothing; you give because God has given you much more than $5.00. You give to the financial needs of your church. You give prayers for those far from God. You only do your duty because God has adopted you into his household.
The heart’s endless quest for attention hinders Christian service. That is why God asks you today: ‘What is your motivation for serving?’ Because Christian service has only one starting point: God’s grace. The reason we serve is because God’s Grace Motivates Christian Service. So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’”
The Carnival cruise ship, Triumph, towers about 140-feet high (that’s about the height of our city’s water tower. It measures just under 900-feet long (about the distance from this church to the Doherty Hotel). It can hold 2,754 guests (about the city population of Clare) on its thirteen decks. Four glass elevators whisk you from deck to deck, to jewelry stores and gift shops, to mini golf, to a casino with 60 slot machines, to an underground-themed arcade, to spas and saunas, to the sky lounge. A multilevel water park sprawls across the three upper decks. On the top, a waterslide stretches two-stories down. The midlevel deck has concession stands, tables, and cabanas. The lowest deck has a pool with water guns, smaller slides, wave pools, hot tubs. In case of a Caribbean thunderstorm, a retractable roof covers everyone up. If hungry, you have burger joints, Mexican restaurants, seafood, a pizza place, coffee bars, dozens of breakfast places, or you can order room service. And then, let’s not forget, this is a cruise! Triumph chugs from Caribbean island to Caribbean island so that you can take in some local life. This ship lacks absolutely nothing. It is a floating paradise.
Yet, on February 10, 2013, a fire in the engine room killed all power to the ship. No thrust, leaving Triumph aimlessly drifting in the Caribbean Sea at 5 to 8 miles-per-hour. No electricity for refrigerators holding red meat, seafood, chicken, dairy, and ice. No engines powering air conditioning, pool pumps, or bathrooms. Without the engine all those splendidly exquisite amenities sat useless. No one could enjoy anything the ship offered.
We have spent the last two weeks identifying spiritual gifts God gives and how your gifts benefit the body of Christ. Today, God highlights the one key component giving power to all those splendidly exquisite gifts. A necessary component so that we use our gifts for good. An essential component so that others might benefit from what we offer. One Love Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but A love seeking to give.
So, let’s look at [1 Corinthians, chapter 13] verses 4-7. Here you see God define ‘love’ and explain how ‘love’ operates. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Now, in the English language, we have only one word for love. You can say you “love” a hamburger, “love” your friend, and “love” your spouse. The way you are using the word “love” in each of those statements is a little different. So, you have to understand the context in order to know what type of “love” is being shown to a hamburger, your friend, and your spouse.
The Greek language uses three different words for “love”— and 1 Corinthians is written in Greek. One word for “love” is (1) eros [ἔρως]— a romantic love between husband and wife. Another word is (2) phileo [φιλέω]— a friendship love. The other word is (3) agape [ἀγάπη]— which describes loving someone even when they do not deserve it. So, when God says, Love is patient, love is kind… he is using one of those three Greek words. Here, he uses the word: ‘agape’— a love shown to the unlovable. ‘Agape’ love never wonders: “How will I benefit?” Instead, ‘agape’ love always asks: “What can I do for the benefit of others?”
In case you wonder how this applies to your life, God lists some examples. If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love-- if I am not thinking about how my speaking will benefit my fellow believer-- I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. I benefit no one because I refuse to reveal the meaning of the words. I only sing sweet angelic songs so that others might see me do something they cannot. I serve only to draw attention to myself. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. That is me flaunting spiritual gifts so that I look superior! Superiority causes me to look down on others. I am using my spiritual gifts to inflict pain. Maybe you stand firm in the face of cancer, and then mock a friend who struggles. “Why can’t you be more like me?” Perhaps you can clearly explain the difference between the ‘Will of God’ and the ‘Providence of God,’ but you do so for the sole purpose of appearing smart. You really want others to hover around your superior intellect. Or, you parade knowledge to shame others for not knowing as much as you do. Then they will not waste your valuable time with their so-called ‘dumb’ questions. Then they avoid challenging your beliefs. You are using your gifts to hurt. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. You can donate your car, your house, your clothes, all your savings to charity, but if you do all this so that we may praise your generosity, then your motives are wrong. You are not trying to benefit others; you want to benefit yourself. You want our praise. You want our respect. You want us to scramble to you the next trouble arises for deliverance. That is not ‘agape’-love. That is not a love seeking to benefit others, that is a love seeking to get.
God gives you (and me) spiritual gifts in order to benefit others. Yet, selfishness drives us to use those gifts only when we will receive something in return, be it praise, respect, or approval. A love seeking to get does not match God’s standard of love. It falls short of his expectations. It means, you fall short of what God expects from you.
That is why God gives us these words. The point of 1 Corinthians 13 is not to see how good your love is. Rather, it reveals one love that is good. One Love that Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but rather a love seeking to give.
[Jesus] is patient… His anger does not flare up every single time we grow arrogant. He has repeatedly taught us to love others just as he loved us and we still fail each day. Instead of punishment, [Jesus] is kind… He demonstrates mercy, treating us not as we deserve. [Jesus] does not envy worldly praise and glory, as we might. [Jesus] does not boast about the power he has as God. [Jesus] is not too proud to die a criminal’s death. Too proud to be held guilty for our arrogance. Too proud to be rejected. [Jesus] is not self-seeking. He uses his blood to purge pride from our spiritual record. [Jesus] keeps no record of wrongs. If he did, who could stand? (Psalm 130:3). Rather, [Jesus] rejoices with the truth: ‘Forgiven!’
Jesus does not come to make you great in the eyes of the world, he comes to make you great in the eyes of God. That is what truly matters. When all on earth passes away, when life is over and eternity begins, the only words that truly matter are the words God will say to you: ‘Come!’ One Love Motivates All Service. A love seeking to give.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. Love puts faith and hope into proper use. Love for God leads to an increased faith, an increased reliance on him. Love for God’s Word increases eternal hope. Love for God leads to a self-giving love for others.
So, look at verses 4-7 again. This time, do not listen with a mental checklist of “dos” and “don’ts.” Instead, remember that these words describe the love Jesus poured out for you. That means, this is not list of demands for you to obey and earn something. This describes the hearts God put in us. This describe our new hearts of love.
Love is patient, love is kind… It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. You may have that sister who argues all the time. Just being with her gives you fits— and you do not always think nice thoughts. You may even go out of your way avoiding to help her. Sound familiar? How often have we argued with God’s commands, but Jesus never avoided us? He came from heaven to earth to us. That self-giving love only motivates us to be self-giving. So, you overlook her faults— not that you pretend hurt never happened— rather, you do not keep a record of wrongs. You are kind and compassionate, forgiving, just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32).
Love does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud… That means you are never too proud pulling weeds in the flower beds. Never too proud picking up scraps of paper or pushing leaves out the door. Never too proud washing a dirty dish or straightening up sloppy appearances. No one may ever see you serve, praise you, hand you an award, and pat your back. Still you serve, seeking nothing in return. You imitate Jesus’ love that gave his all—so that he might receive you in return.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Mourn with those who mourn. Encourage those who need encouraging. Pray for those who need prayers. One Love Motivates All Service. A love seeking to give.
One engine powers so many luxuries on the cruise ship, Triumph. No engine and you have no thrust to move. No refrigeration. No pools and waterslides. No glass elevator. No mini-golf. No air conditioning. No bathrooms. One crucial part is so necessary for every pleasure to be enjoyed.
One crucial part is so necessary for us to benefit from each other’s spiritual gifts—and that part is love. This is not a love which fits our terms or wants. This is a love first shown to us. A selfless Savior gave his life for us. A selfless Savior gave his forgiveness to us. A selfless Savior gave gifts to us. Gifts not to advance ourselves. Gifts not to prop up and elevate our status. Rather, gifts to give. Gifts to give so that others may be ever more intimately connected to the body of Christ and to each other.
What gifts do you have? How might you use those gifts? Set your sights on Jesus, the one key component to use those gifts for good. One Love Motivates All Service. A love not seeking to get, but A love seeking to give.
This is what division does. Thirty-four days of a government partially shutdown. Now, let’s be clear about one thing: we are not discussing politics this morning. We are not debating who we think is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong.’ For just a moment, ponder what you see. One political party proposes a budget-bill only to have it rejected. The other political party proposes a budget-bill only to have it ignored. Each body of government seems to only function among itself and not with its counterparts. That division has an effect. About 800,000 employees still wait for a paycheck; some have gone one month without pay. That means, rent and mortgages go unpaid. That means, spending is watched at grocery stores. That means, trips in the car are limited. An increasing amount of Transportation Security agents refuse to work. So that means longer security lines in which to stand. That means longer wait times for flights. That means some agents work longer hours and spend less time with family. Division stirs up anger. Division tarnishes respect. Division damages relationships. Division benefits no one.
So, if division helps nothing, why does it still occur? Boil it down. Form one concrete answer. Why does this happen?
God knows the reason. That is why he gives us these words today. God does not want our differences morphing into painful division. He reminds us: One Body has Many Parts. God makes each member uniquely different, So that each member is uniquely united.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts… Different-sized parts like hands and arms, feet and legs. Different-shaped parts like bones. Different-textured parts like internal organs. Different-functioning parts like eyes and ears, nose, and mouth. [A]nd though all its parts are many, they form one body. You do not hold one single part— like a heart— and say: “This is a body.” No! We identify the heart as a part of a larger object.
So, just like many individual parts come together and form the body, So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body— whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free— and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Each one of us here have one thing in common. One thing— regardless of your age. Regardless if you are a man or woman. Regardless of your job or how much you make. Regardless of your personality or interests or hobbies. Regardless of where you were born, where you grew up, and where you live now. You (and I) might be completely, absolutely different in every possible way, but we still have one thing in common: We are here today because of Jesus.
[W]e were all baptized by one Spirit into one body… You are just one person, but at your baptism, God adopted you. God took you [individually] by choice into his family. And God adopted the person next to you at her baptism. God used baptism to adopt the guy sitting in front of you. The person across the aisle is adopted through baptism. One-by-one God joins each single believer into one spiritual family that has one common belief: Only Jesus saves. [T]he body is not made up of one part but of many.
Forget this and you start sounding like a foot. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. Do you catch the problem? It’s jealousy! After all, hands get more attention than feet. You lotion hands, you wash them often, people see your hands, I shake your hands. Honestly, I forget that you have feet; it’s the farthest thought from my mind! And how often I pout because no one sees my contributions. “I keep clean the church. I water plants and shovel the walks. I reached out to that fellow member who has not worshipped in over a year. No one saw me do that. No one thanks me for this.” Jealousy demands credit for a God-given gift. It is absolutely selfish to fold your arms, pout, and gripe: “Well, since I receive no praise, then I will stop helping this body.” Division hurts others. Division limits you. Division benefits no one.
And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. Eyes and ears constantly work. When we are awake, we are always seeing and hearing. Both get credit… but maybe the ear thinks sight is a more important function than hearing. Really, the ear demands to perform in a way it cannot! That, too, is jealousy. Jealousy ranks gifts. Jealousy says: “It is unfair that I have to listen and not preach.” Jealousy says: “I want to lead, not follow.” Jealousy says: “I want to be known as outgoing and personable, not quiet.” Jealousy refuses to use the unique gifts God gave you.
Catch that? Look at verse 18. God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. Who gave you the gifts you have? Who opens opportunities for you to use those gifts? Who equips you for service? God. So what does jealousy say about God’s arrangement? “God, you do not let me be praised. God, you do not let me be seen. God, you got it all wrong.” You tell God how to function.
God would have every right and reason to amputate us from his body, but he does not. Instead, he amputates Jesus. Yes, Jesus, the Son of God is made lower than the angels. His twelve fishermen constantly squabble about the most important rank in their group. Still, it is Jesus who has our jealousy written all over him. It is Jesus who is cut off from the body of God. It is Jesus who dies to join you (and me) into the body of Christ.
Jesus strips away jealousy by dying for you and then living again to tell you about it. You are a part— yes, just one part of a larger body— but you are a special part because Jesus spent his life to join you to him.
God makes each member uniquely different for a reason; God makes you different for a reason. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? If you all had the same flamboyant gifts, who would benefit? Picture it: an eyeball laying on the ground. This is a body? It can see me talking, but cannot decipher my words. It can see dinner, but cannot smell or eat. It can see friends, but it cannot wave and say ‘Hi!’ An eyeball does a great job of seeing, but it fails miserably to do anything else! The body has other needs, so it needs other parts. Each part uses its unique ability in its role at the appropriate time. One Body has Many Parts. God makes each member uniquely different, So that each member is uniquely united.
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!” What would happen if the eye got its way? You have no hands. How would you pick things up? If you tripped, you could never catch yourself. You would get hurt. You need hands. Each of you have an ability that is valuable. Maybe not noticed. Maybe never credited. But still valuable.
Think about that. You have value. You do not have the right to throw a pity-party, neglect your gifts, and say, “Well, they don’t need me… I’m too old… I’ve put in my time serving… I’m too busy… I don’t want to…” If you are a hand, then serve as a hand would. If you enjoy people, then encourage like a people-person would— because others may not be people-persons. Or, if you are a not-so-noticed-foot, then serve as a not-so-noticed-foot. If you enjoy completing tasks, then keep clean your worship space and help clear sidewalks. No one may notice your contribution, but it is noticed when it is missing. If you are a powerful eye, then serve as a powerful eye. You may have knowledge of Bible stories. Use that knowledge to teach. You may have that strong faith. Then use that faith to focus others on Jesus.
God does not distribute gifts so that you compare yourself to others. God makes you unique so that you can serve unique needs. Your uniqueness might feel unnecessary. Friendliness? Really? Well, what an awesome feeling to be greeted by a warm face! Supporting, not leading? You do not need to all be Pastors; Pastors need helpers too. Helpers who have those relationships in the community, relationships that help remove barriers. Helpers who have building knowledge, who can design and decorate, who can use their body for work. Feel too elderly to contribute? Physically, maybe; spiritually, never! Experience is a treasure trove of wisdom! And you, dear Christian, may have the wisdom to approach the youth, identify temptation, and connect Jesus to life-situations. One Body has Many Parts so that each member is uniquely united.
That is the reason you are different from others. Differences actually unite us! Think back to the beginning (of our message). Our government has separate bodies that each have a unique set of responsibilities. When all work together, the economy runs strong, employment rises, and people receive physical needs. People are brought together. Division stirs up anger. Division tarnishes respect. Division damages relationships. Division benefits no one.
If one part suffers, every part suffers with it… Ever stub a toe? Such a little part of the body makes the entire body stop and floods the mind with pain. When a fellow believer suffers, the entire body of believers pays attention. Again, each part in its own way. A fellow believer loses a spouse. You hurt too. Some of you pray, others encourage, still others offer affectionate hugs. A fellow Christian stays away from worship. You hurt because you know faith can be lost; unbelief results in hell. So, friends encourage. Parents speak up. Believers pray. Your different roles actually bring us closer together.
[Y]ou are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. Faith in Jesus as Savior makes you part of the body of believers. Even though you stand in one big group, God makes each member uniquely different. You are the only one with the life experience you had. You each have different priorities. You each have different abilities. You each are unique, but still in the one body of Christ. That uniqueness is put to work So that each member is uniquely united.
Focus on the one Savior who joins us all together and see how God uses you (and me) to only strengthen bonds. To encourage others to remain strong in Jesus. To strengthen bonds of friendships here. One Body has Many Parts. God makes each member uniquely different, So that each member is uniquely united.
Have you ever done this before [balancing a pole on the palm of your hand]? If you have, then you know there’s a tactic to keeping the pole upright; you must keep your eyes on the pole. Your eyes will see the pole’s movements, your mind will comprehend what adjustments must be made, and your brain will tell your hand where to move. Take your eyes off of the object— maybe fixate on your bulging muscles or beautiful hands or check out how good you look— and the pole falls. Your attention is misplaced. And you know what? It does not matter how good you look, it does not matter how strong you are, it does not matter if you have the most beautiful hands in the world. Take your eyes off of the object and the balancing act fails. We could say it this way: the act of balancing this pole only succeeds when your attention is centered on the object.
For the next three weeks, we will explore the spiritual gifts God gives and how you put those gifts into action in your congregation. Before we explore using those spiritual gifts, we must start by seeing from where those gifts come. We get to set our attention on an Object. Only then do we gain the ability to keep our gifts in proper balance.
So, let’s set our sights on this: One God Gives Various Gifts. Your Christian life starts from him and Your Christian service is for him.
Did you catch the word repeated? For ‘him,’ for ‘God.’ Spiritual things deal with God. So, if we want to explore spiritual gifts, we must set our attentions first on God. That is why our reading starts the way it does; it resets our attention. Now about spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be ignorant. ‘Ignorant,’— that is, ‘misinformed’ or ‘lacking correct knowledge.’ Maybe you do not quite know what a spiritual gift is. You might be unaware that you do have unique abilities. Perhaps we are misinformed about the purpose of having spiritual gifts. Ignorance can lead to chaos, hurt, division, disunity within a congregation. Yet, the most significant misunderstanding we can have about spiritual gifts is thinking “It is all about me.”
Do you find yourself saying that? “I have a gift!” I am friendly. I am creative. I am caring. I am wise. I am knowledgeable. I am dedicated. Do you see what’s happening? You take credit for your abilities, as though somehow you chose to be gifted in those areas. You want people to praise you for the various abilities that you have. If you want people to praise you for your superiority, then soon you will determine (1) who you will help, (2) when you might help, and (3) in what ways you will help.
Do you realize that spiritual gifts are just that? Gifts! God makes that point pretty clear in verse 2. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. God shows us what we once were. Pagans. Nonbelievers. Not followers of Christ. You (and I) were conceived in sin (Psalm 51:5). You (and I) entered this world spiritually dead, spiritually lifeless (Ephesians 2:1). Without faith in God as Savior. Without the ability to choose God as Savior. Unable to invite God into our hearts. God clearly says: “At one time you wanted nothing to do with spiritual matters.”
But that has all changed. Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed…” To ‘curse Jesus’ is to say, “God, destroy Jesus.” No Christian would ever want to say that. After all, we love Jesus! How could we wish such evil? We would not— because the Holy Spirit puts love for God in our hearts. [N]o one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.
The only way you (and I) come to faith is when the Holy Spirit works on our hearts. Remember, Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). What is in that “word of Christ?” Jesus reveals his divine power. He changes water in wine (John 2:1-11). He cheers hearts crushed by guilt (John 4:5-26). He wisely knows God demands complete obedience for eternal life in heaven (Matthew 4:1-11). The Word tells us that (1) Jesus is divine and (2) he uses his abilities to serve us.
Look at Jesus and you see him serve you. The Father abandon Jesus for our ignorance about spiritual gifts. He raises Jesus from death and declares you ‘Forgiven.’ Then, he sets that assurance on you at baptism. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). The Holy Spirit has worked in your heart the ability to say: Jesus is Lord. You admit that only Jesus paid the penalty for sin. You confess that only Jesus wiped away your guilt. You believe that only Jesus has saved you. He is the Master, the Chief Leader in whom to trust. He is your Lord.
This is where we start when exploring spiritual gifts. Only God makes it possible for you to receive spiritual gifts. Jesus removes the penalty for sin. The Holy Spirit applies that payment to your spiritual account. The Father declares that payment, “Accepted for you!” Your Christian life starts from God. So, what now? Well, Your Christian service is for him.
Pay attention to how that service appears. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. You will see different kinds of abilities, you will see different areas to apply those abilities, you will see different results from those abilities. And regardless of what gifts you have, what areas you might serve, what results might appear, there is still one God. One God Gives Various Gifts.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. God will reveal himself through you. That means, sometimes God makes you the answer to someone’s prayer. A grieving widow receives God’s encouragement from you. A frightened child receives God’s protection through you. A stressed-out son receives God’s financial providing through you. God blesses the world by the abilities he has handed you. Sometimes it means serving even when you receive no direct benefits. Your healthy body shovels out the driveway of the elderly lady, even though your driveway is still covered in snow. Yet, you have health to serve! You lend advice to an undisciplined daughter, even though she ignores half of it. Yet, you have the ability to advise. Our attention is not set on ourselves; our attention is set on our heavenly Father who has so freely, so lovingly made us his children that we want to serve him with what he has given us!
Look at all the gifts listed, and maybe you realize that you have one (or two). Yes, even if you are 4, 24, 44, 64, or 84-years old. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom… Real wisdom understands the reality of sin and sees its solution in God. So, wisdom takes in the teachings of God and applies them to every aspect of life.
[T]o another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit… Knowledge is what you have learned in the Bible. It includes even teaching Bible stories about Jesus or sharing your faith.
[T]o another faith by the same Spirit… That ‘faith’ does not mean coming to faith. No, it describes a strong faith that clings to the promises of God. The wife remains courageous in the face of cancer. The college student prays when finances grow tight. You pick up the phone, get bad news, but you still remember God works all things for our good. Maybe you know someone with rock-solid faith. Or, maybe you are that person with rock-solid faith. That benefits your fellow Christians. Strong faith encourages us to grow stronger in our faith. When we see strong faith, we are reminded to trust in God too.
[T]o another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers… We might remember how the apostles drove out demons and healed cripples. This demonstrated that their Christian teaching dealt with the one true God (and not the devil).
[T]o another prophecy… We think about Pastors who preach and explain God’s Word so that it makes a little more sense to us.
[T]o another distinguishing between spirits… that is, applying Bible teachings to certain Christian questions. You can identify if a preacher on television is telling the truth or if he is over-exaggerating portions of the Bible. [T]o another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. Again, we think about Pentecost. The twelve disciples could speak in different languages. More important than that was that others could understand what Jesus had done in their own language.
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. The reason we have a particular gift is because God graciously handed us such a gift. Notice, these spiritual gifts are never uses to bring praise to you. You never find God saying, “Yes! You are the greatest!” Nor does he pressure you: “You better figure out what you’re good at.” No! God lists gifts. You can look them over. You might say, “Hey, I have the gift of remembering Bible stories. I will tell my children these stories.” Maybe, “Oh! My faith does not shake under pressure. I will keep feeding it and encourage others to do the same.” Perhaps: “I understand Bible teachings. I will warn my family to stay away from false teachers who …deny infants baptism ...think all people enter heaven …that God wants us to earn his love.” One God Gives Various Gifts. Various, because we all have different needs. You use your unique abilities to serve the unique abilities of each other. This pleases God, you serve one God.
Next week we will focus on individual gifts and how each of us work together in a Christian congregation—but first, let’s end with this topic: Where do we get our gifts from? God, as he always does, puts our attention on him.
Kind of like balancing this pole. If I take my eyes off of the pole and focus on me—how beautiful I am, how great I am—then the pole falls. The power to keep pole upright comes from setting my attention on what the pole’s doing.
When I set my attention on God, I am able to carry out my spiritual gifts for the good of others. I am able to use those spiritual gifts so that others might benefit. Set your attentions on God. Your Christian life comes from him. Your Christian life is for him. One God Gives Various Gifts.