Allen Jackson - About Spiritual Gifts - Part 2
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It's an honor to be with you today. We're talking about one of my favorite topics. We're talking about spiritual things, and specifically the Holy Spirit and how he leads us and directs us, how the power of God is brought to bear in our lives by his Spirit. We've been reluctant for too long. We've begun our relationship with the Lord by telling him what we won't do. Let's change the tone on that and begin to say, "I'm available, I'm open. I wanna cooperate with everything that you have for me". Whatever spiritual gift, whatever manifestation of the Spirit, whatever fruit of the Spirit, we wanna yield our lives fully and completely to cooperate with him. If we'll do that, it will change the outcome of our lives, folks. We've got to do more than outthink evil; we need the power of God to help us. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
If we go back to the 1 Corinthians 12 passage, it says: "To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good". I like that word "manifestation" for what's discussed in 1 Corinthians 12. I think it's more helpful than the word "gift". The word "gift" carries with it a sense of possession. This is my Bible. If I were gonna give it to someone as a gift, if I were to say, you know, "I want to give you that as a gift, it's yours," you could take it home and attach value to it and read it. You can use it to start fires. You could give it away to somebody else. You could drop it in the trashcan on the way to the car. It's your gift.
That was just an illustration. Because of that meaning around the word "gift," I think the notion of spiritual gifts can bring some confusion because you and I don't control the Holy Spirit. We don't manipulate God. We serve at his pleasure. That'll become clear in a minute but we have to say it and repeat it because that notion of spirit, people say, "Which gift do you have"? You know, it's like we've taken a personality test or the Myers-Briggs analysis and somebody's given an analysis to your psychological profile and that's just who I am, and that's how I roll. I do miracles. Well, excuse me, Obi-Wan, but our boss is the miracle worker. On your best day, you can't heal a gnat's wing. But that's not to say that God doesn't do miracles through his people. And if you don't believe that, it's highly improbable he will utilize you. If you can't acknowledge the miracles you've received, why should he do something through you?
Now, God's desire to help his people is so great that on occasion he'll even use a donkey. There's a story about that in the Bible. He recruited a talking donkey 'cause the prophet was so spiritually blind the donkey had more insight. I tell you that to give you a dose of humility, 'cause even Balaam's donkey could see angels. And most of us are still arguing whether or not we think they're real. So gifts is a little misleading. I think manifestations is more helpful. When something is manifest, it's made apparent. No, think of it if you're worried about contracting a virus and you get the symptoms, can't see the virus but you can see the manifestation of its presence, helpful?
So now let's read the list. "To each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit". What's being emphasized? The presence of the Spirit. It's not something we have done. There's gonna be nine separate manifestations listed in this particular passage. "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. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he," the Spirit, "gives them to each one, just as he determines".
So who's the determiner of those manifestations? The Spirit of God is. So again, I think it's a little misleading to say, "Well, you know, I took a gifts test and these are my gifts". I remember a conversation in my office one time with somebody and they said, "Well, you know, I only want to lead something, 'cause I have the gift of leadership". And I said, "Well, would you lead a group that was going to pray for some people at the hospital"? He said, "Oh, no, I don't have the gift of mercy". And I remember thinking, "No, but you do have the gift of stupid". I was kinder then, I didn't say those things out loud. But you know, that notion that if you have the presence of the Spirit of God within you and if you're a born again Christ follower, you do, you're a candidate for any one of those manifestations of the Spirit if you would be willing to cooperate.
But again, we have some kind of passive language at this point so, you know, "I'm open to anything God wants to do through me. Whatever God wants to do through me. If he wants anything on that list to have, I'm open. Here I am, God, I'm a blank slate, a clean canvas, an open vessel, use me". Ignorant. That same set of statements regarding the Lordship of Jesus and you could land in hell. "Okay, there's a God, I'm open to anything God wants for me. I'm not resisting him. Whatever you want me to do, God". Well, my Bible says that unless you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, you won't be saved.
Now, God's provision for you and me is through the redemptive work of Jesus on a cross: his death, his burial, his resurrection. But in order for the benefit of that, to have an impact upon your journey through time and your eternity, you have to believe and confess and then you have to yield to the lordship of Jesus and grow up in him. And if you intend for the Spirit of God to be manifest in your life, you're gonna have to do something other than have this language of a blank canvas. "What do you want me to do? Be crazy"? No, we'll talk more about that. That's not the only list of gifts in the New Testament. I don't think we'll take the time to read 'em all but Romans 12 there are some additional things listed.
We might read that one. Romans 12: "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us". You know, have you ever heard the word "charismatic," references people who, what? Depends on where you come from, how you reference those people. If you're one of them, it references normal. If you're not one of them, it references weird. But charismatic comes from the word "charisma," which is one of the words that's translated here, gifts. I don't do a lot of word studies but charis is the Greek word for grace.
So charisma is a grace gift, which means it's something you didn't earn. It's not merit-based. You didn't qualify for it. It's not a spiritual merit badge. It's not because of your maturity or your faithfulness in reading the Bible or achieved sanctification, or a measure of purity or holiness or godliness. It means God in his grace, his unmerited favor, unearned, undeserved, through your life, made a manifestation of his Spirit. And typically, when one of those grace gifts is made evident, someone else other than the person through whom it is delivered is the beneficiary. If you pray for someone and they get healed, who got the gift? Well, if I'm in that equation, I'm sick and I got better, I got the gift. Are you with me?
So it's an expression of grace. We have wrongly imagined this is something you attain, you achieve. It's knowledge-based. I need another seminar on the gifts because I don't know enough about them in order to be an open vessel. "We have different gifts, according to the grace given us," Peter said. "If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it's serving, let him serve; if it's teaching, let him teach; if it's encouraging, let him encourage; if it's contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously". Oh, Lord, we don't want that gift. "If it's leadership, let him govern diligently; if it's showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully".
My point is it's an expansion of the list in 1 Corinthians 12. So there's really more than nine listed in the New Testament. That list will grow to 20 or so. I'm not sure it's intended to be an inclusive list of all the ways the Holy Spirit is made evident in our lives. I believe it's intended to open our imagination that the Spirit of God would make known through our broken vessels, his power on behalf of his people. The biblical pattern is that the gospel is proclaimed with signs and wonders attached to that, and then the ungodly look and go, "There's really something to this. This is more than a study society. This is more than a moral code or an ethical set of principles. This is more than a civic club. There's actually a power engaged here".
It was true in Jesus's ministry, it's true through the book of Acts, it's true through the Epistles of the New Testament. It's true all the way back, true all the way back to the book of Exodus. "Let my people go". "Who said"? And so it started, with a shepherd staff and a snake and the magicians and their snakes and the shepherd staff swallowed their snakes. And a Nile that turns to blood and flies and hail until the firstborn died. Now you gotta go. And then they changed their mind, because evil does not yield easily. Then they sent the chariots of Pharaoh up after those slaves. "We're not really done with them after all. Yeah, we'll bury the dead. We'll start again tomorrow. Get the slaves back". And the Red Sea parts.
You know they're angry. You know they are so enraged. They're so infuriated. They feel humiliated. "Who do these slaves think they are that they would plunge into the dry bed with the walls of water of the Red Sea on either side, heedlessly"? They have overridden reason. You see, a church without the power of God is not the church. It's not the church. Even the devil understands that. When we get to the book of Revelation, we're gonna look at that in the next session. When the Antichrist emerges onto the stage of human history, when he breaks into the open, not just the spirit of Antichrist but the person, the individual, the Antichrist, he'll be attached to his entourage, he'll be a false prophet. He's a very supernatural character. Even the devil understands the power of the supernatural.
Folks, we've been ignorant for too long. Whether it was willful because we were just unaware and because as we've dabbled in the occult for too long and it's impeded our vision, or because of the stubbornness of our hearts, we have refused to believe. Now, just to come back, I don't want you to miss 'cause I'm gonna move on, yes. These manifestations of the Spirit, they're not limited to the list in 1 Corinthians 12. It's more than nine listed. We can talk about some of these more in another session, perhaps. But they're not merit-based. They're based on the grace of God. So there is no room for boasting in us. This is not about arrogance or spiritual maturity.
One of the greatest mistakes that I have witnessed and I have witnessed it over and over and over again is that you will follow someone because there are manifestations of spiritual activity in their lives. Folks, God will make himself known through a donkey. Are you listening? They're not merit-based. They're not an accurate reflection of maturity or character. Again, the Corinthian church was filled with manifestations of the Spirit, in their drunkenness, in their gluttony, in their immorality. These manifestations of the Spirit are under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Think of the potter and the clay. Remember those images that's used in the prophets and that's used in the New Testament? God is the potter, we're the clay.
The objective is maturity, in the language of Ephesians, the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Because together, collectively, we present the body of Christ. He said, "The hand can't say to the foot, 'I don't need you.'" We stand collectively. This is very divergent from contemporary American evangelicalism and our focus on personal salvation and individual piety. We argue strenuously that we don't need one another. It's built in to us, it's baked in to us. We've heard it decade upon decade upon decade. You see, I don't think we understand the degree to which we've been the frog in the kettle.
Let's take another topic. It's easier to see, perhaps. "You don't have to get married, it's a piece of paper. A piece of paper doesn't make you married or not married. We're married in the sight of God. Don't be marrying in a church. It don't matter where you get married. There's nothing holy about that building. You don't have to have a pastor or a priest or a cleric. Get Uncle Joe. Get the captain of the ship. Get the bartender from the beach. Get the DJ. It's your day. Do it how you wanna do. Don't let somebody else force their antiquated ideas and principles and values upon you. It's a reflection, it's a holdover from a patriarchal hierarchy that's intended to control you". "In the language of the Bible, says, 'You'll worship me under every spreading tree on every hillock or every bump in the land or any place you decide to.' You've decided you don't have to worship me according to the patterns that I gave you".
Now let's come back to the church in the New Testament. "I don't need anybody else, I'm born again. I don't like to live in community, all that, you know, that's just something preachers dreamt up, they're trying to get your money". Well, we are but we didn't dream it up. I'm kidding, kind of. And I believe in personal salvation. I believe in the new birth and I believe in conversion. But I don't believe you will ever achieve maturity by yourself. I don't believe you'll ever fulfill what you were created to be. I don't think you'll ever grow up to the full measure of who you were created to be in Christ, apart from community.
And I say that to you, I'm someone whose spiritual formation did not take place within the organized church. I was born again in my parents' kitchen, I was baptized in the Atlantic Ocean. The first two churches that I can remember attending, the pastor who served those congregations either didn't believe in heaven or hell or the divinity of Christ. I've attended theological seminaries that mocked the Scripture as if it were the authoritative Word of God. I've got a lot of personal experience with failures in organized religion. Yet I can't get away from the notion that Jesus said, "I'll build my church". It's not defined by architecture or location, just defined by community of people who share a common allegiance to Jesus of Nazareth as Lord, Christ, and King.
And I hope you recognize the tremendous pressure that's being exerted on that principle. We just walked through a year where you were labeled non-essentials, not important. Doesn't make any difference to our culture if you get together or not. You're not essential, hush, what a bunch of self-important, quaint, little, self-absorbed people, archaic, anachronistic, holdovers. If I was trying to deconstruct the values of this nation, I'd do my best to render God's people non-essential too. But tragically, we went, "Oh, okay. Okay". Do I think it matters that you're together, not because you get to sit and hear a wonderful sermon or participate in worship. I really don't think that's probably the deal at all.
I think there's something to being in community, serving together, identifying together, standing together, helping one another, encouraging one another, rebuking one another, challenging one another, linking arms and saying, "We're together in this endeavor. Not because we're always right or we always agree but we've committed ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus".
How important is it, let me ask you the question in a different way. Over that same period of time where the church was deemed non-essential, we told our children they could learn just as well from home. "You can Zoom, we've got an amazing array of technology. You can use all sorts of groups, software, a whole host of ways to teach. It could be individualized. You can get it for yourself; you won't be distracted by the students around you, you won't be encumbered with all the peripheral activities that go with church... I mean, with school". And what we know, 2 1/2 years later, is it was incredibly destructive to our children, to their learning, to their academic development, to their growth and development as people, that they were tremendously diminished from the isolation.
Do we think it's different for us? I don't believe it is. I think there's something demonic in that that says, "We don't need..." Yes, we do. We need one another. I know that's hard. Hate to acknowledge that. Rugged individualist. That's baked into our DNA as a people. Jesus is building his church, and I believe just as certainly, he's given us apostles and prophets and evangelists and pastors and teachers to help us grow up, to reach our maturity in the body of Christ. Whether it's the manifestations of the Spirit or the fruit of the Spirit or these ministry gifts that are empowered by the Spirit of God.
Folks, we cannot afford to be ignorant of spiritual things. Let's just begin to quietly say to the Lord, "I wanna learn. I wanna grow. I wanna participate". Don't leave out the participate. "I'll start to pray, I'll start to read my Bible, I'll start to repent where I know I'm walking in ungodliness". See, don't look for the invitation into the supernatural until you've accepted the invitation to repent. I don't wanna stay ignorant, and I don't want you to either. I brought you a prayer. I built it out of Ephesians chapter 1. It's not original so if it seems familiar, it should. I monkeyed with the pronouns a little bit, but I don't believe I changed the meaning; I just tried to give it a personal application. If you're a purist, forgive me, all right? But let's read that prayer together. Why don't you stand with me? It's really intended to be a prayer of invitation. Have you found it? Okay, together:
Heavenly Father, we keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know You better. We pray that the eyes of our hearts may be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which You have called us, the riches of Your glorious inheritance in the saints, and Your incomparably great power for us who believe. A power which You exerted in Christ when You raised Him from the dead and seated Him at Your right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but in also in the one to come, amen.