FIND YOUR PLACE IN THE CHURCH

Sermon given April 27, 1996

by Pastor Jim Erwin, Associate Pastor

McDonald Road SDA Church, Mcdonald, TN

Before we get started this morning, I would like to give some names to you and let you associate with those names what their particular ministry is. Let's start with C.D. Brooks and Mark Finley. What kind of ministry would you associate with C.D. Brooks and Mark Finley? Someone said, "Preaching." What kind of preaching? Evangelism, yes! When you go to hear Mark Finley, particularly when he is talking about having meetings, you sense in him a passion for... what? Souls, yes! How about Kay Kuzma or Ron and Karen Flowers? What kind of ministry do you associate with them? Family, yes! Ron and Karen Flowers are in charge of Family Ministries in the General Conference and Kay Kuzma has located here for several years now and her ministry. What about Mother Teresa or Gail Williams? Yes, we think of Community Services or helping the needy. If we said something about the Perkins we'd think about Vacation Bible School. And we could mention several names here in the church and you'd say, "Oh, they do this really well." Let me ask you a question, now. They have found their place in the church. These people that we have mentioned. They have, like Mark Finley, they have a passion for souls. Sometimes we say, "They have a dream." or "The Lord has put a burden on their heart." or "They have a vision, or a purpose, or a calling." or "They have found their niche where the Lord can really use them.

How about you? Have you ever wished you knew what your place in the church is? Have you ever wondered, "What can I do in the church?" or "Where do I fit into the scheme of things in the church?" "And if I knew what to do and where to do it, How would I go about that?"

This morning we'd like to look at what we call "Spiritual Gifts", and look at them as special abilities that God gives to us to do ministry in the church. If you will take your hymnals and turn to our scripture reading for today, scripture reading number 776 (1 Corinthians 12, NIV). Just keep it open there. We will read from it in a few moments. Let's talk about Spiritual Gifts and what we're to do in the church or what we can do.

First of all, Paul mentions that the Holy Spirit gives the gifts to every believer. At least one. Usually several. God gives the Spiritual gifts to us according to what God's design is and what His grace for us is. A Spiritual Gift is a divine endowment or and empowerment from God to do a particular work of ministry in the church. It's used for spiritual purposes. It's the abilities God gives us to make our own unique contributions in the church. Those people who have been asked or been allowed to work in their spiritual gifts find a sense of fulfillment and a sense of ministry.

Let's look in our scripture reading, number 776, and we'll look down at the third paragraph from the bottom. (1 Cor. 12:11) "All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each man, just as he determines." So we don't go out and choose... "Well, I think I'd like to prophecy." "No, Id like to work miracles." "Well, maybe I'd like to give, to have the gift of giving." No, we don't go out and, like a lottery, pick and choose our spiritual gifts. Or we don't go, like to a clearing station for heaven, like you would go over to Southern College and look at the offerings of the list of classes and choose what you want. No, it doesn't work that way. God gives the gifts to us as God determines. It's not something we choose. It's something we can accept. So they're given to us by the Holy Spirit to minister.

Now, have you ever wondered what's the purpose of Spiritual Gifts? Why did God give them to us in the first place? Though we have skills and talents, why did God want to give us something special? Look at scripture reading number 777 just across the page, the second paragraph from the bottom, I'd like for us to read that together. It talks about the purpose of Spiritual Gifts and why God gave them to us. It's for our benefit, and we'll list several benefits that are listed here. So let's read (Ephesians 4:12).

"To prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ."

So this is the purpose for Spiritual Gifts. These are the benefits we as a church receive from the Spiritual Gifts that God gives to us.

First of all, let's look at the verbs. The first verb is "to prepare", to get ready. Some versions have, "to equip" the saints. To prepare God's people. So the Spiritual Gifts are to prepare us for something. What is that "something?" Works of service. Or we might say, "Works of deaconing; the kind of things we do in the church."

The second verb is "be built up." To build up what? The church, that's us, you and me. So the Spiritual Gifts are given to prepare us to be able to do things for God in the church for people. And it's given so that we as church members might be built up.

The next verb is... what? Reach, yes! Reach. To reach for... what? Unity in the faith and... what else? In the knowledge of the Son of God. So here's another benefit. As we are prepared for works of service, as the church is built up, then that helps us to reach toward unity together in the faith and in the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It's not a social club. This is unity because we are of the same faith and belief and because we have the knowledge of Christ; we've committed our lives to Jesus Christ and we come together as one. Those of you who have traveled very much know that when you go from one church to another, to another state, to another country, overseas; when you go to the church and people find out that your are a Seventh-day Adventist, what happens? There is a bonding, almost instantly, because we are unified in what we believe and in our committment to Jesus Christ. As a new Christian, when I began to experience that, I was amazed, because in the other churches that I had been taken to... you didn't always see that when you went from the home church to another in another state. Sometimes you were ignored. So there is that bonding together in unity.

The next verb is "become." To become what? Mature. Or in the King James it says something like "perfect", or in other translations you might find the word, "complete". So that we might grow up in Jesus Christ; become mature, become complete, and as the King James says, perfect. So we're becoming mature and complete and perfect.

And the last verb is that we attain... to what? The whole measure of the fullness of Christ. We experience Jesus more fully.

So you have there, five or six benefits of why the Spiritual Gifts were given. They were given for us to grow and gather in the church and to grow and mature in Jesus Christ. And to be more like Him

If we're looking at Spiritual Gifts and what they are, one of the ways to define what Spiritual Gifts are is to look at what Spiritual Gifts are NOT. The first NOT, the first things that Spiritual Gifts are NOT is that they are not Spiritual Fruits. Turn to Galatians 5. Here Paul tells us in a little nutshell what the Spiritual FRUIT is. In the Greek and in the English the Fruit of the Spirit is: (verse 22) "Love." If we really punctuated this so that it would fit the best we would probably put a colon instead of a comma, because it's written in such a way that the fruit of the Spirit is love. And we put a colon, we have a list of ways love manifests itself.

Against such things there is no law.

Paul has a commentary on this verse in 1 Corintians 13. What do we call that chapter? The love chapter, yes! So this is Spiritual Fruit. What is the relationship between Spiritual Fruit and Spiritual Gifts? Basically this:

Spiritual Gifts are abilities God gives us to do things in the church, to perform certain tasks. We may be given a gift to do something on a short-time basis like some missionaries discovered that in certain circumstances they either spoke in a different language or were heard in a different language, but they didn't have that the rest of their life. On other occasions, missionaries have been given the gift to instantly speak a very difficult language and they have held it the rest of thier lives. So a Spiritual Gift is an ability to perform a task for the up-building of the church and the church members. It's something we do.

Spiritual Fruit is something that we are. It's our character, how we relate to other people. A Spiritual Gift refers to our calling, our function in ministry in the church. Spiritual Fruit has to do with our relationship with each other and with God. It has to do with our character and how relate to other people. So Spiritual Gifts are task-oriented and Spiritual Fruit is character-oriented. So Spiritual Gifts are NOT Spiritual Fruit.

Another thing that Spiritual Gifts are not is Spiritual Discipline. What are Spiritual Disciplines? Well, things like fasting and tithing and going to church when the church is open on Sabbath. If we looked at Gifts and Disciplines it would go something like this: There is the Gift of evangelism. People would have the tendency to say that there's only a few evangelists in the church. They've even done statistics. Dr. Jacobson, who is in the North American Division or the General Conference, I don't remember which, but he was in this conference for a while and he thought about Spiritual Gifts and how it relates to other things and he says that about ten percent of a congregation has the gift of evangelism. However, the Bible says we are all to be what? In Acts 1 Jesus told the apostles to go ye therefore and witness, make disciples. So there's a difference between the Spiritual Discipline of witnessing and the Spiritual Gift of evangelism. When you have the gift of evangelism that means that when you witness, things really happen. But as church members if we do not have the gift of evangelism, we still witness in many ways. Sometimes it's just the way we live our lives. Sometime it's how we greet people. Sometime it's how we relate to people when they're in distress. But we do witness.

Now there are people who have the gift of intercessory prayer. I have met a few people like that and I am amazed at the way they can pray, and how God answers their prayers, and how long they can pray. All of us do not have the ability to spend many hours prayer, maybe. I've talked to some people who have the gift of intercessory prayer. They can pray for two days without stopping. And they pray until they sense that God has heard their prayer and worked a victory in somebody's life. Most of us pray, but we don't pray like intercessory people do. We pray and ask the Lord for His power and His gifts and that the Lord will bless certain people and we pray when we are studying that the Holy Spirit will guide us. Our prayers here at church are short for the invocation. The prayer of petition is a little longer but they don't go for a half an hour or an hour. They're just short. Most of us tend to pray at our own rate. So there is a Spiritual Discipline of prayer, but there is also a gift of a special kind of prayer.

We have several small groups in our church and we are studying to learn things. Now all of us study, and some of us remember better and some people among who are asked a question always seem to have a real solid answer. We would say that these people have the gift of knowledge. Most of us study and we remember most of what we learn. But just because we don't have the gift of knowledge we say that there's no point to study the Bible. There's no point in reading what Ellen White says. There's no point in me studying the Sabbath School lesson. Now we don't say that, we say that we want to learn what Jesus' will is for me, so I'm going to study and learn as much as I can about the Bible. So there's a difference between Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Disciplines.

What about talents. What about skills that people have? You don't have to be a Christian to have a skill or a talent. You don't have to be a Christian to play musical instruments. What's the difference between a talent and something God specially endows us with the ability to do? Let's take a story I read.

There was a particular large church that invited in an actor who was very well known, not only for acting but his speaking ability and his ability to read poetry. They could hand him almost anything and he could enthrall and entrance people with the way he read it. It reminds me of Disraeli, one of England's Prime Ministers. He could spend a morning in the British Parliament, I understand, reading financial reports and grip the rest of the parliament's attention so that they were rivitted to what he was saying. They invited this fellow to come in and he read the Twenty Third Psalm. And it was great! In fact, when he finished reading the Twenty Third Psalm, the whole congregation stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Just great! So excited! There is a place for that. But then an old saint, and old gentleman came from the back of the church and walked to the front. There was no doubt the congregation had been moved in a certain way by the actor's reading the Twenty Third Psalm. But when the old saint got up to the front of the church and stood there he began to recite the Twenty Third Psalm. Not with clear beautiful diction like the news-casters have, but in the language of the area where he lived. The congregation was a little embarassed, but by the time he finished reading the Twenty Third Psalm there was a hush in the church, and there were tears streaming down people's faces. Because, you see, the actor had honed a skill and a talent, but the old man had been touched by the Master. His rendering of the Twenty Third Psalm was nothing like the actor's, but had been endowed by the Holy Spurut to touch people's hearts and lives with what Jesus meant to them. And that's the difference between a talent and a skill and a Spiritual Gift. We can all hone our talents and skills, but it takes the touch of the of the Holy Spirit to make that talent to reach the hearts and souls and spirit of people with the love of Jesus Christ.

Well, Spiritual Gifts and Spiritual Fruit are different. Spiritual Gifts and Talents aren't the same thing. And Spiritual Gifts are not Spiritual Disciplines. And there's something else Spiritual Gifts don't have anything to do with. Doesn't have anything to do with titles and positions. I have the title of Pastor in this church. So does Pastor Gettys. We have some retired ministers here. But just because Pastor Gettys and I hold the title of Pastor doesn't mean that we have the gift of Pastoring. We may have the gift of teaching, we may have the gift of administration. We may have the gift of leadership. We may have the gift of helps. We might even have the gift of faith or evangelism but it doesn't mean we have the gift of pastoring. A person who has no title at all may have the Gift of Pastoring and function as a Pastor and never have the title. Spiritual Gifts are not titles. They are abilities to perform spiritual works to build up the church and to bless people's lives with the love of Jesus Christ.

Well, how does this work in the church? If you take your hymnal and turn to scripture reading number 902 (Romans 12:6-8, NIV). Some people when they look at passages on Spiritual Gifts they look in Ephesians 4 and says, "Aha! Here is the purpose of the gifts. Here are the ways people function as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers." And they look in 1 Corinthians 12 and say, "Oh! There are many ministries, there are many effects of what happens when people use their Spiritual Gifts." And in Romans 12 some people say, "These are the basic gifts." Let's read Romans 12:6-8.

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.

Let's look at the gift of proclamation or prophesying. Look at some of the characteristics, how you would pick out whether someone had this particular kind of gift. This again is from Dr. Jacobson, First of all the person who has the gift of proclamation or prophesying is usually a very careful student of Scripture. and they have a hatred of evil, and feel compelled to state their convictions. Not only do they have a hatred of evil, they anguish over sin. Not just an anger, but an mental anguish. And as they have this need to express their convictions they also have a concern for church purity and they happen to be the "reformer" type. In other words, they're very frank and they're very direct, and they are very likely to tell you something you may not want to hear. Or they may tell it to you in a way you don't like the way they said it.

And there are some down-sides, some potential problem areas for someone exercising the gift of proclamation or prophesy. First of all, if they're not careful they'll come across as a fanatic. Secondly, they may come across as being harsh and brutal in their approach to people. And they may become more concerned with the cause of what they're trying to correct than they are with the people they're ministering to. And they probably are a poor listener because they have so many convictions and they are compelled to tell you what those convictionsa are. Do you know somebody like this? They probably don't have very many close friends. And they will forget that there is a spirit of the law as well as the letter of the law. You may remember Grayfires Bobby. One of my favorite ones is about Kate Fields.

Kate Fields was a great actress. She was called in to be given an award at a postmaster banquet for Kentucky. There also happened to be a little old lady named Kate Fields who was postmistress of some little wide spot in the mountains. So they started calling for Kate Fields to come up, and this little bitty lady with an old mountain sack-cloth dress stood up with her hair up in a bun. Kate Fields, the actress, immediately saw what was happening. She stood up and called, "Give a hand to Kate Fields of Cumberland Corners." She knew the spirit of the law. And so she acquiesed and honored the other Kate Fields.

Not too likely that someone with the gift of prophesy would do that unless the Holy Spirit was working with them. Remeber what Paul said about John Mark? "He will not work with us again. He will not work with us. He flaked out. He quit on us." Paul and Barnabas split up over that. But later on as the Holy Spirit worked with Paul, what did he say about John Mark? "Bring him to me. He's very valuable to me." Well, let's run down through the gifts mentioned in Romans 12 and how it applies. You go home today and you have company, or you're in somebody's home as company for Sabbath dinner. Mother senses it's time for the dessert and she has Mary go into the kitchen to bring the dessert out. As Mary is coming back through the door from the kitchen into the dining room she's in a hurry and she kind of stumbles and she's holding the dessert a little crooked and the dessert falls out on the floor. How would people with these various gifts react to that situation?

The person with the gift of proclamation would most liukely try to correct Mary. "Well, that's what happens when you're in a rush and not careful."

A person with the gift of serving would volunteer to help. "Oh, I'll help clean that up."

A person with the gift of teaching would analyse the situation. "Well now, the reason that fell off the plate was that you were overbalanced as you came around the corner and you were in too big a hurry and you stumbled." Trying to draw a lesson on how we can improve the next time around.

The person with encouragment or exhortation would say, "Well, we didn't need all those calories anyway. It'll work out better next time."

The person with giving, if they had been worked on by the Holy Spirit enough would say, "Oh, don't worry about that. We can just get another one. If they were in a down mood and the Holy Spirit wasn't in touch with them they might say, "What a waste." Because people who are into giving tend to want to make sure everything is accounted for, and that things are not wasted. Money is not wasted on inconsequentials.

The person with the gift of administration would look at the problem and say, "Oh, here's the solution. Jim you get the mop. John would you get the broom, and Peter get the waste basket, and Mary would you get the wash cloth and Martha would you go back into the kitchen and the person who has the gift of giving has some ingredients in the car already, in about five minutes when we get this thing all cleaned up you'll have another dessert ready for us."

And the person with the gift of mercy trys to relieve embarrassment. "Oh don't feel badly. It could have happened to anyone. Why, that happened to me just last week. So don't feel bad about that."

So we've talked about Spiritual Gifts today: what they are not, and what they are. They're not spiritual fruits, they're not discipline, they're not titles, and they're not skills and abilities. It's a special endowment from God He gives to each of us to do something in the church. Spiritual Gifts are given for our benefit, build us up, mature us, to equip us, prepare us for work in the church. God has a place for each one of us in His work. And we need to find it. That's why we're having a prayer meeting series on finding our place in the church. And we encourage you to come.

To close with a quote from The Acts of the Apostles page 50. "The Lord is more willing to give the Holy Spirit to those who serve Him than parents are to give good gifts to their children. For the daily baptism of the Holy Spirit, every worker should offer his petition to God." And Mrs. White is giving this in the context of encouragement to us that we hunger and thirst for the gifts of the spirit. May the Lord bless you to find your place in the church.



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