Support us on Paypal
Contact Us
Watch 2022 online sermons » Craig Smith » Craig Smith - While We Wait (Equipted)

Craig Smith - While We Wait (Equipted)

Craig Smith - While We Wait (Equipted)
TOPICS: Equipted, God’s Timing

Well, good morning. Welcome to Mission Hills in all of our locations, no matter where you are, how you’re joining us, we’re just glad you’re with us. If you’re just joining us, let me catch up real quick. We’re in the midst of our Equipted Series, where we’re taking a look at all the ways that God has gifted and equipped us to be on mission with him in the world.

Last week, we learned a couple of really important truths. And probably right there in the middle of the whole thing is this idea that the Church runs on two rails. We run on the rail of diversity and unity. You gotta have both or the Church can’t move forward in its mission. If you have unity without diversity, then you might be facing in the right direction, but you don’t have all the parts you need to actually make any progress.

Think of a car that’s may be missing three wheels, and an axle and a steering wheel, it might be facing in the right direction, but it’s not gonna get there, right, because you need the other parts to be brought together. On the other hand, if you have diversity without unity, what you actually have is division because everybody’s going in their own separate directions. So we need diversity and unity. Those are the two rails the Church runs on. The problem, of course, is that diversity and unity don’t coexist easily.

Can I get an amen from all the married people out there, right? I mean, we’re better together, but we also have a lot more potential for conflict together. Because even though we bring different gifts that could make us move forward together in our mission, those different gifts often cause conflict and division. And so unity and diversity don’t coexist easily. We have to be very intentional about keeping them together. And so the real question is, what’s the secret sauce, right?

And that’s not just true in the Church. We’re working through a section of 1st Corinthians where Paul’s talking about unity and diversity in the Church. But a lot of what he has to say applies in marriages. It applies, you know, in your fraternity or sorority, with your friend group, in your neighborhood, with a group of work, fellow laborers and work. I know that came out weird. I don’t know. But you know, whenever you get a group of people together, their different gifts, hopefully, can propel you forward. But that doesn’t happen automatically. That diversity can actually cause division. So the question is, what’s the secret sauce in all those relationships?

Why don’t you go and grab your Bible. Start making your way to the book of 1st Corinthians. We’re gonna be taking a look today at what Paul says is ultimately the secret sauce for getting the benefits of diversity without losing the unity that drives us forward. And here’s what he says, starting in chapter 12:28, picking up where we left off last week. He says this, “And God has placed in the Church…” We’re talking primarily about the Church, even though these lessons apply in other places. He says “God has placed in the church, first of all, apostles, second, prophets, third, teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance and of different kinds of tongues.”

So this is a list of gifts that God gives the Church. But the important thing is, they all came from who? God. He says that right up front, right? And God places, God gave these they’re there on purpose, which means that we’re supposed to see all these different gifts as gifts, right, because that’s what they’re intended to be. That’s not how we always see them. Sometimes we see all these different things coming together as obstacles rather than opportunities, right? Because it’s harder when we have all these different pieces coming together. But he says God gave them, God placed them in the Church we’re supposed to see them as gifts. That’s so, so important.

Now, he does an interesting thing here. And if you’ve been with us throughout this series, you might find that little surprising, because what Paul said over and over and over again, up to this point, is that all the gifts are necessary. Just because one gift is more visible doesn’t make it more valuable. Just because one gift is behind the scenes doesn’t mean that it’s dispensable. In fact, he said, even those things that are out of sight shouldn’t be out of mind, because they’re indispensable. They’re so, so important. And yet, in spite of that very clear teaching here, he numbers, the first three gifts. He says the first gift is apostles, the second one is prophets, the third is teachers. And that feels on the surface like he’s ranking those gifts, right? But I want you to understand, that’s not what’s happening. This isn’t a rank of importance. This is a sequence of appearance. This isn’t a rank of importance, it’s a sequence of appearance. I’m gonna have one of these days. I can tell.

In other words, he’s not saying that these gifts are more important, this isn’t the first, and the second, and third gifts in importance. He’s saying this is the first, second, third, gifts in terms of when they appeared in the Church. He said the first gift that appeared in the Church was the apostles because that’s what an apostle is. An apostle literally in Greek means “a sent one.” Because when Jesus rose from the dead, he sent the apostles out with that news, with that Gospel. And he said, “You go and you go to places that have not heard about the resurrection.” And so they came with the message of the resurrection. That was the first gift that each of these churches saw.

The second gift was the gift of prophets. They brought the word of God. This is in a period before they had the Bible, and so they didn’t have the written word of God. And so prophets were how they got the word of God. And in fact, in the book of Ephesians, Paul actually says he says that, “Every local church is built on the foundation of…”, get ready, “the apostles and the prophets.” Because they arrived first. That was the first appearance.

And teachers come after that. He says they’re third because they used what the apostles and the prophets have given, and they help people understand it, understand the significance, what it looks like to put into practice. And so without what the apostles taught, what the prophets taught, the teachers don’t have anything to work with, and so this is a sequence of appearance, okay? Now, he only mentioned the first three, because this isn’t, again, he’s not trying to rank all the others he’s saying after that all these other gifts came.

But the point is, they came in a sequence. Now, why is he telling us this? Because here’s the point that he’s telling us. He’s saying, God gives us what’s needed when it’s needed. It’s really important to understand. God gives us what’s needed when it’s needed. He’s not gonna give us a gift that we have no use for yet. He’s gonna give us the right gift at the right time. Now, it’s Father’s Day. How many fathers do we have in the house? Awesome. How good a gift giver are you?

Like, Dad’s gonna be, like, “I’m the best,” right? But the reality is, as dads we’re kind of mixed on that one. My dad is a great dad. He was a great gift giver. But every now and then he was just, like, yeah, that probably was… like, when I was… I just had this one little tuft of like hair growing right here, and he gave me my first electric razor. And I was, like, “Yeah, I can actually just scratch that off with my finger. I don’t really… You gave it a little bit early.” So human fathers are not necessarily perfect in their timing, but our heavenly Father is perfect. He gives the gifts exactly when they’re needed, you know, and I see this.

But here’s what happens. Sometimes we get fixated on the order something appeared and we think, well, that’s what’s most important, right? But the reality is, it’s not necessarily. In fact, here’s a lesson we have to understand. What was most important yesterday may not be what’s most important today. What’s most important today may not be what’s most important tomorrow. This is the thing that the Church was really struggling with in Corinth because they were going, “Well the first gift that appeared were apostles, therefore apostles are most important therefore we need apostles.” And guess what? You had a bunch of people step up and going, “I’ll be that apostle.” I have the gift of apostolicity or however you say it. Actually, I think that was right. You’re laughing, but I think I actually nailed that one. And so actually, we see in 1st and 2nd Corinthians there’s a little bit of a battle going on people claiming, “I’m an apostle because that was the first gift that must be the most important gift right?” And they’re actually even challenging Paul who really was an apostle. “Well, you’re not as much of a possibility as I am.” And Paul’s, like,” What is wrong with you?” What was wrong with them was they didn’t understand that, you know, what was most important yesterday may not be what’s most important today, what’s most important today may not be what’s most important tomorrow.

You know, when I was in a much smaller church, I did all the administration. It was a church of about 400 or so and there just wasn’t that much administration. I could totally do what needed to be done. Mission Hills, that’s not the case at all.

And so God has given a gift. We have John Roberts. He’s my executive pastor over ministry operations, which is fancy church talk for administration. He’s incredibly gifted. He’s an amazing gift of God. And that’s a gift that I need today so that I can focus on preaching and some other kinds of things. But I didn’t necessarily need it yesterday. Does that mean that the administration wasn’t important? No, I just didn’t need somebody who had that particular gift at that day. And it’s important today. But God gives gifts as they’re needed. It happens in our individual lives as well.

But our temptation is to go when the gift first appeared, that’s what must be the most important gift. And Paul’s going,, “No, no, no.” You’re assigning value in another broken way. Last week, we saw that people tend to assign value based on visibility. Now, he’s saying you’re tending to sign value on the basis of when it first appeared, but that’s not the way it works. He says this, he says, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?” And of course, the answer is, “No,” obviously not.” He’s emphasizing the importance of diversity. He’s saying stop assigning value to some things based on the order in which they appeared.

That’s not the way to do it. And then he says something very surprising. He says, “Now eagerly desire, the greater gifts. And yet, I will show you the most excellent way.” Which feels like a contradiction, doesn’t it? He’s just over and over again, he’s going to stop assigning value based on human motivations, stop assigning value based on this or that because, you’re messing the Church up, and you’re creating division and conflict. No, no, no. All the gifts are equally valued. It doesn’t matter when they appeared. It doesn’t matter whether they’re visible and upfront or not. He says they’re all equally valued. And he says but desire the greater gifts. And you’re, like, “Wait, what?”

As a couple, let’s think about this. One possibility is that what he’s talking about is seek the greater gifts in a particular context. And in chapter 14, we’ll get there next week, he speaks about the context of church worship services. And so he may be saying, you know, not all the gifts have the same value in that particular context in the church worship service. So for instance, you know, if you break your foot, you want an orthopedic surgeon, right? You don’t need an ear, nose, throat specialist at that moment. Does that mean the orthopedic surgeon is more important than the ENT? No, it just means in that context, that’s the gift I need. You know, if you got a sore throat that’s going on and on, you don’t want an orthopedic surgeon, right? You want an ENT specialist.

So he might be saying in the context of the church worship service, there are certain gifts that are more important at that moment. But it doesn’t mean they’re more important across the board. That’s one possibility. The other possibility… and I’m sorry, we’re gonna get in the weeds just a little bit. Some, you’re gonna be so, so happy. And some of you are gonna be, like, “What just happened?’ We’ll move through it. Just stick with us.

In Greek, you can tell whether a word is a command or a statement based on the spelling of the word. We use a couple of other words around that to kind of communicate that. In Greek, just the spelling of the word tells us it’s a command, so do this or it’s a statement. you are doing this. And that’s true in, like, 99% of the cases. This word here for desire or earnestly seek or different translations deal with it differently. That word is a weird word in Greek, and we actually can’t tell the difference.

In Greek, the command and the statement are identical in form. And so he could be saying, “Now seek the greater gifts” in this church context, church worship service, or he could be saying, “Now you are seeking the greater gifts.” In which case what he’s doing is he’s exercising his spiritual gift of sarcasm. Do you know that was a spiritual gift? I really believe it’s a spiritual gift. Paul had the spiritual gift of…. So what he would be saying, in this case, is but you… he’s already said, “All these gifts are equal. All these gifts are important, yes, God gave the right gifts at the right time. But what’s important today may not be what was important tomorrow. And what’s important today may not be what’s was important yesterday. But you know what you guys are doing, you’re so zealous… ” This will be an alternate translation. You’re so zealous for the, air quotes, “greater gifts,” the ones that you think are greater.” That’s the other possibility.

So he’s either talking about greater in the local context, or he’s talking about this is what you’re doing, but he says, I will show you a much better way. I lean a little bit in that direction. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter all that much. But notice what he says next. Chapter 13:1. He says, “If I speak in the tongues…” and by the way, that was one of the gifts that the Church in Corinth was chasing after, they were zealous about, they considered it a greater gift. He said “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.” By the way, I want you to be real clear on something. Paul isn’t saying we can speak in angel languages, okay? Some people have read it that way. In fact, I’ve heard people say, “Well, that’s what the gift of tongues is, it’s speaking in the angel language.” I’ve actually seen there are correspondence courses, you can get, I kid you not, for learning how to speak in the tongues of angels because Paul said we could right? No, he didn’t.

What is Paul doing? Again, details some of you will be very happy. The rest of you just stick with me. He’s using a figure of speech. It’s called a merismus. Merismus is a figure of speech where we describe a whole package of things by naming just the outside ends of it. So for instance, we do it all the time, we say, hey… you know, we fall in love, right? And we go, “I’m thinking about you night and day.” In other words, I’m thinking about you all the time, right. You name the outside ends, but it’s describing the whole package.

We go, you know, “I would move heaven and earth for you. I’d do anything for you.” It’s the whole package. Or let’s modernize it, right? From Ant Man to Professor X. Anybody that help drive to that home? Or from the Avengers to the Justice League, right? All the superheroes but we just name the outside ends. That’s what a merismus is.

What Paul’s doing is basically saying, “Hey, if I could speak in every possible language you can imagine, but I don’t have love, it’s just noise,” right? That’s what he’s saying. Without love, anything we say is just noise, which we’ve all experienced, right? We’ve had people who’ve told us things that honestly turned out to be true, but the way they told it to us made it really hard for us to receive it. Anybody had that experience? It’s the worst, isn’t it?

Someone might come up to you and go, “Can I tell you what’s wrong with you,?”right, and you’re, like, “Would you please? Would you?” And then they tell you something and honestly, your defenses are up. If it doesn’t connect you’re, like, “Whatever.” And then, like, years later, you’re, like, “Dog gone it, they were right.” But you didn’t hear it because of the way they said it, right? Without love everything we say is noise.

Our parents… You guys have had this experience. You’re telling your kids something over, and over, and over, and over again. Stop looking around. Some of you are, like, looking at your kids. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. We tell it over and over and over again so it would really help them, it would benefit them. And then their friend comes along or worse yet their girlfriend or their boyfriend and they say it and your kid’s, like, listening and they’re paying attention. And you’re, like, “What? I’ve been saying that and you just said it one time.” You’re, like, “Yeah.” Because something about the way we said it failed to connect, right? And it doesn’t mean that we said as parents without love, but what we might have failed to do is to say it with the love that they could hear. And that’s on us. We have to pay attention to that.

Here’s a really important question we need to be asking. Paul’s very clear. He says, “without love, everything we say is just noise.” So what do we have to do? We gotta ask number one, is this motivated by love? We gotta do a heart check. Why am I saying this? Is it really motivated by love?

And then number two, it’s just as important. Is that love obvious? Is that love evident? Am I communicating that love in a way that they can hear? Because otherwise, what we say is gonna come across as noise no matter how good what we say might actually be, right? He says, ” without love, everything we say is just noise,” Anything we say is just noise. And not just anything we say. He goes on and says it’s also stuff that we do. It’s the sacrifices we make. He says verse two, “I have the gift of prophecy, and I can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but I do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor, and then give over my body to hardship that I might boast. But I do not have love, I gain nothing.” So it’s not just what we say, it says also the skills we have and the sacrifices we make. He says, “Without love, our skills and our sacrifices, have no traction. They don’t move us forward, we’re just spinning our wheels.”

And so, you know, we have to ask the same question of the stuff that we do that we have to ask of the things that we wanna say. First question is, is this motivated by love? Is love driving me to do this? And if the answer is yes, then the next question is, is that love obvious? Is that love evident? Is that love being demonstrated in a way that they can receive? Because otherwise we’re not gonna get any traction from what we do. So you might as well sit down and shut up. He says love is so, so important.

And of course, we go. “How do I know? Because I think it’s motivated by love. I think everything I say, you know, it really comes from a heart of love. Everything I do it comes from a place of love, but I think it does. How do I know?” He says well, let me tell you. And he gives us a checklist, kind of a heart check list, we might call it. By the way, what I’m about to read here is super, super, super familiar. Maybe you’re in church for the first time, maybe it’s the first time you’ve ever opened up the Bible, or even heard any teaching from the Bible. But I guarantee you’ve probably heard a couple of things that I’m about to say

It is all over Pinterest. You can’t scroll through Instagram and not see pieces of it. Hobby Lobby has about 900,000 items with pieces of this printed on it. Even Michaels, which is, like, the non-Christian version of Hobby Lobby they got a bunch of this stuff with these words printed on and it. They’re super familiar. But what’s happened is that you know, we use it in weddings, whether they’re Christian or not, but we don’t understand the context for it. We always sort of kind of get it all out by itself and sort of make it into something else then.

But what Paul’s doing is he’s going, “Hey, love is the secret sauce,” right? Love is what make what we say not be noise. Love is what gives our skills and our sacrifices traction. How do you know if you’re actually being motivated by love? Here’s a checklist. So he says, check it list, he says, “Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud.” How are we doing? “It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs….” Doggone it, I was doing pretty well. “Love does not delight in evil but it rejoices with the truth. It always protects, it always trusts, always hopes always perseveres.”

He says, “Here’s your checklist.” He says, love is the secret sauce. What he’s really basically saying is this. He’s saying love is the tie that connects unity, diversity. That’s what he’s dealing with diversity, all these gifts and talents, and skills, they can make us better together. But without unity, we’re not actually moving in the same direction. But unity and diversity don’t naturally coexist. So we gotta have something that holds them in the right place so that the train can move forward.

And what’s the tie that connects unity to diversity? The tie is love. And can we pop that picture up here? I mean, if it helps to think about like this, you know, one of those tracks is unity, one of those tracks of diversity. What’s keeping the tracks exactly in the place they need to be so the train doesn’t go off the rails? And the answer is those ties. He says love is the tie that connects unity to diversity. And here’s your checklist to see whether or not you’re being driven forward and motivated by love.

And he says such an interesting thing. He says, “Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease, where their tongues they will be stilled, where there is knowledge, it will pass away.” Become a very controversial passage for the Christian Church. But we need to understand in its context, is love is a tie that connects unity to diversity. And what he says here is “Love never fails,” which is really to say, love has no expiration date, right? But some of the spiritual gifts do.

He mentioned three spiritual gifts. He mentioned prophecy. He mentioned tongues and he mentioned knowledge, which is probably word of knowledge that he mentioned a little bit earlier on in the Book of Corinthians. These were a few of the gifts that the Church in Corinth was really fixated on. He says, “Hey, stop fixating on those because love has no expiration date, but those things do.”

Now, there’s a couple of questions that happened here. And the first question is this, is Paul talking about all the spiritual gifts or is he talking about what we call the sign gifts? It’s the first question. He says love has no expiration date, but at least some of the spiritual gifts do and the question is, he talking about all the spiritual gifts is that little sample there those three, do they represent all the gifts or do they represent something called the sign gifts? And if you’re not familiar with that term, let me just explain it real quick.

1st Corinthians 12:7 Paul gives the definition of spiritual gifts. He says spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the Holy Spirit. So to every believer, there’s one way that the Holy Spirit primarily shows up through them, that’s a spiritual gift. Now some of those gifts when the Holy Spirit shows up, it’s really obvious. Think you’re driving down the freeway and you see a big billboard and you can’t really miss it, it’s so big. You’re, like, “Whoa, there’s a sign.” That’s what the sign gifts are. They are ways the Holy Spirit shows up that nobody can miss. And so prophecy would be one of those. Healing would be one of those. Word of knowledge, somebody gets information they couldn’t have had by natural means. It’s really obvious. There’s no way to explain that apart from something supernatural happening. And so we often call those the sign gifts. But there’s other gifts with the Holy Spirit still showing up, but they’re not necessarily quite as obvious or in-your-face that it’s happening.

So the question is, is he talking here about all the spiritual gifts or just those kind of in-your-face, obvious, spiritual, supernatural kinds of things? Now, one option is to say that it’s all the gifts. The other ones to say, well it’s just a limited subset of the gifts. I tend to think that he’s probably talking about all the spiritual gifts. He’s fixated on the ones that the Corinthian Church was focused on obsessing over. But he’s basically saying, “Hey, guys, all the spiritual gifts are gonna go away.”

And part of the reason I say that is a little bit later, he says “But there’s a day coming, when we’re going to know even as we fully known, we’re gonna see face to face.” And that’s Jesus coming back language. He’s talking about the day that Jesus comes back, and honestly, when Jesus comes back, the spiritual gifts just aren’t gonna matter anymore, right? We’re not gonna need them anymore at that point.

I mean, like my spiritual gift is teaching. Like, I’m gonna be out of a job. Like, what would be the point of a preacher, right? I’m trying to get an audience over Jesus is over there, and I’m like, “Hey, come talk to me.” I mean he’s good but you know, right. Let me explain to you what God was saying here like, “Well, I’m just gonna go ask him.” And honestly, if the line is long and be like, I just go talk to Moses, talk to Paul thought of the guy who actually God used to write. Like, I’m gonna have no… see that that spiritual gift was gonna leave prophecy, it’s just not going to be necessary when Jesus returns.

Some people think that there’s something else going on. That’s really the second question, which is this, what exactly is that expiration date? And then there’s basically three options. I’ve already given you one. Let’s walk through each of the three options together. When will these spiritual gifts stop mattering? What’s the expiration date? The first option is this, the expiration date could be the writing of the Bible, the completion of the Bible, which makes a certain amount of sense, because, you know, before we had the Gospels, we needed the apostles to go and talk about the resurrection. But once we have the four Gospels, you don’t necessarily need somebody to share the news of the resurrection, because we have it written down in a reliable account. The prophets delivered the Word of God. But once we had the Word of God completed, you didn’t necessarily need somebody to deliver the Word of God, because we already had it, and we could circulate it that way. And so that makes a certain amount of sense. And some people believe, yeah, once the Bible was done all the spiritual gifts, or at least the sign gifts stopped.

Another option is the expiration date could be the return of Jesus. That’s what I’ve sort of suggested. I think in the context that makes a certain amount of sense. There’s a third option, though, and I think it’s this, it’s that the frequency of the gifts of all of the gifts, the frequency of the gifts will vary as God determines that they’re needed. Now, one day, they’re gonna expire when Jesus returns, but in the meantime, I think the frequency of these different gifts will vary depending on the needs of the Church as God determines.

In fact, early on in the Book of Corinthians, we saw this couple weeks ago, he says very explicitly that God gives each of the gifts to the Church as he deems them necessary. I suspect that’s what Paul’s getting at here. And here’s the thing. See, when I read through the Bible, one of the things that becomes clear to me is that the miracles, we tend to fixate on all the miracles in the Bible. All these miracles were always happening. That’s not really true.

You know, the miracles are actually clumped. You know, we see a lot of miracles at certain times when God’s doing something new, but then the frequency of those miracles tends to kind of fade away a little bit. So you know, we go well, you know, when God took the Israelites out of Egypt, there was all these crazy miracles going on, you know, fires falling out of the sky, and then food. So I mean, just crazy miracle after miracle. Well, yeah, but then after they got into the promised land, honestly, we don’t have a lot of reports of miracles. It seemed to kind of decline in frequency.

But then in the ministry of Elijah, which was really anticipating the coming of Jesus, the miracles kind of kicked up a bit, and then they sort of died down. And then when Jesus came, and when the Church was moving into new territory, they had a lot of these miraculous signs, because they’re confirming that God was in this. It wasn’t human knowledge, it wasn’t just a new philosophy, it was the power of God at work. And they saw confirmation of that. And yet, then after that, it began to fail.

But in fact, when you read the books of the New Testament, the earliest books, of the New Testament, talk a lot about these miraculous sign gifts. But then the older books don’t talk about them nearly as much. It’s almost like the frequency died down. And again I see the same thing in history. I’m always a little leery about looking to history to understand things because I wasn’t there. We weren’t there, you know. How do we know exactly what’s true or not? But it’s interesting, I see a very similar pattern.

When the Gospel goes into new places, there seems to be an uptick in these miraculous signs. And then after the Gospel is established, the frequency seems to go down a little bit. I mean, I have friends who’ve taken the Gospel into parts of the world that they’ve never heard the name of Jesus before, and these friends had no background in miracles. They weren’t part of charismatic churches. They weren’t looking for any kinds of miraculous signs. They were just carrying the Word of God. And yet they moved into these places in the world where they’d never heard the Gospel, they never heard about Jesus and they saw miracles. They weren’t looking for them, but they saw them happen. Because there was a confirmation, “This is something people need to pay attention to. The power of God is at work here.” And then after the Gospel was established, the miracles seem to decline a little bit.

So I see a pattern in Scripture, and then I seem to see it repeated in history. And so here’s what I would ultimately say… I get this question a lot. Like, you know, “Should the Church still be seeing all these things or have they all stopped?” And my answer is, I’m not sure either one of those is right. There’s a little bit more of a middle of the road where we say, the frequency it gets will vary as God determines their need. And when God’s doing something new, we might see an uptick in them. But then we can rely on the other things that God has given us like Scripture and teachers, in other times, and that’s okay. And I reckon this is a middle of the road position, and the best thing about the middle of the road is you can be hit by traffic going both directions. The potential to make everybody mad with this. But I believe biblically and historically, this is probably the safest position.

Here’s what I would ultimately say. Here’s a little pastoral advice. We should be open, but cautious when it comes to the sign gifts. I don’t think I can find in Scripture really clear evidence that they all stopped the moment that Scripture stopped. But I also don’t think we can say confidently that every church is supposed to be seeing these all the time. So I think we should be open. We should be cautious, and we should never obsess over particular gifts. That was the problem in the Church. They were obsessing over apostolicity the apostle. They were obsessing over tongues, obsessing over prophecy. And Paul’s not saying, “Hey, none of that’s true anymore.” But he’s saying all those things have an expiration date. So instead of focusing and obsessing on these, what should you focus on? Have we lost it already? But it said we should focus on, we focus on love.

He says, “Listen, for we know, in part…” And he’s probably talking about the gift of knowledge there miraculous knowledge is given. But it says it only gives you part of the picture. “And we prophesy in part,” It’s not the whole picture. “But when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.” He says this the reason that these spiritual gifts all have an expiration date because they’re only giving you part of the picture. And when we have the whole picture, I believe, when Jesus returns, all the individual pieces just aren’t gonna matter that much. So maybe we shouldn’t be obsessing over them now.

It’s like, you know, you’re putting a puzzle together and what’s the most important part? It’s that corner piece, right? And when you’re putting the puzzle together, that corner is piece so, so important. This is the most important piece, but then honestly, when the whole thing is done, you don’t pay any attention to that particular piece because you see the whole thing. It doesn’t mean that it goes away, and it’s no longer of any significance whatsoever, but the parts disappear in light of the whole.

And he says all those spiritual gifts, they only give us a part of the picture. And then he says an interesting thing. He says, “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” And that feels like a strange shift. But it’s not actually because you know what the number one characteristic of childish thinking is? Children confuse the part for the whole. They go “I’ve got the part, so I know the whole thing.” No, no, you don’t.

He says this, he says “For now, we see only a reflection is in a mirror, but then we shall see face to face…” We’ll see clearly. “Now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I am fully known.” What he’s saying is basically hey, you get it, we’re all children right now. And the thing about children is they tend to confuse the part for the whole and that’s not always a healthy thing to do. In fact, it’s probably never a healthy thing to do.

When of my oldest daughter, Rochelle, was three or four years old, we went to Breckenridge and we rode the ski lift up. We were gonna take the Alpine Slide down. And we got in and I put the safety bar down. She wanted to know what the safety bar was. I was, like, “Well, it’s a safety bar. It keeps us from falling out.” She’s like, “Okay” And so we headed up, and like she kept leaning way over the bar, and I kept having to haul back. She’s trying to look underneath the bar, and I’m hauling her back. And I finally went, “Rochelle, like, you just do not have enough fear,” and she goes, “Yeah, I gotta get me some of that.” And I was trying to feel like what’s going on, and I realized that I had actually caused the problem, in part, because I told her, it’s a safety bar. She’s, like, oh, is there to keep us safe therefore we are safe. Well, no, it’s just part of the picture. We also have to not get over the bar or under the bar, right?

But that’s childish, thinking. You confuse the part for the whole. There was a safety bar, so she thought we must be safe. And I realized something interesting that day. I realized that a lot of our job as parents is to keep children from making mistakes that will haunt them when they’re adults. To keep them from making mistakes when they’re only seeing part of the picture that will haunt them when they’re all grown up, right? See, if she’d fallen out of that, assuming that it didn’t kill her, she would have been deeply, badly wounded in a way that probably would have haunted her the rest of her life. She would have made a horrible mistake that harms her for the rest of her life, based on thinking that didn’t understand the whole picture.

And that’s what Paul’s saying here basically. He’s saying, “Hey, guys, as smart as we think we are, we’re still children.” Don’t make mistakes as children that will haunt us when we’re all grown up. When will that be? I think he says when Jesus returns when we see face to face. And when Jesus returns and the blinders is taken off and we’re given the whole picture, we look around and go, “Oh, that’s what you mean. Oh, that’s what was happening. Oh, I’m sorry, yeah, I caused division and I broke fellowship, and I caused problems.” And the churches do this all the time, over the stupidest of things. Like, I’ve seen churches that divided over the color of the carpet. They couldn’t decide what carpet and it turned into this massive… and you think I’m making this up, I am not. Like, that’s a mistake made as children that will haunt us. That moment we stand in front of Jesus and go, “Yeah, I divided the Church and I kept the Church from moving forward in its mission because, seriously, red?” He’s gonna look at us, and we’re gonna go, “Man, I cannot believe I did that.”

And Paul’s doing this, of course, he’s applying it to spiritual gifts. He’s saying, “Hey, whichever side of this you’re on don’t make mistakes as children that will haunt you at that moment you stand in front of Jesus, and you really see how things really are.” Instead, he says, here’s what you do while you wait, recognize that you’re children. There’s a day coming, when your childhood thinking is gonna pass, you’re gonna stop making the same mistake of mistaking the part for the whole, you’re gonna see things for how they really are. And while you’re waiting for that moment, here’s what you do.

“And now these three remain faith, trust.” Trust that God is gonna sort this out. Hope. That God is at move. He’s gonna work something by bringing us all together that we could never accomplish on our own. And then finally, what’s the last one? Love. He says “The greatest of these is love.” I think there’s irony there. He says, all the gifts are equally important. But you guys are fixated on certain gifts. You’re so zealous about them. Let me show you a better way. Love is better, right?

This is gonna be super cheesy. But hopefully, this will help you grab a hold of what God’s saying here. He’s saying this, he’s saying, “Love never goes out of style, and it ties the whole ensemble together.” Love never goes out of style. And it’s what ties everything… unity and diversity is what holds them together so that we can move forward as a church. So let me just give you a couple of questions. Number one, where am I assuming the part I see is the whole thing? He’s talking about spiritual gifts and maybe that’s an issue, but it might be something else in your marriage, or in your family, or in your community, or at work, or your small group or in the Sunday school class. Whatever it is, where am I assuming that the part I see is the whole thing? Where do I need to seek more understanding? Maybe the next step is not to say something harsh, maybe the next step is not to have a confrontation. Maybe the next step is to go, “Help me understand.”

What I often find in my own life is that I thought I got it until I started asking questions, and I realized I did not see what was actually happening here. I’m so glad I didn’t act on what I thought was happening because what was actually happening wasn’t what I thought.

And so where am I in danger of assuming that the part is the whole and where do I need to seek more listening? Where do I need to have a conversation with somebodyand say, “Help me understand?” Where’s the lack of love causing me to create division? Where’s the lack of love causing a division in my relationships? And as God reveals that the harder question is, where do I need to ask forgiveness? Who do I need to go to and say, “I’m sorry?”

The third is this. Where am I at risk of making a mistake based on a limited understanding that will haunt me later on? I guarantee you there are people here that are contemplating a conversation or a decision or something based on what you think is the whole picture, but it’s potentially a very, very costly decision. And maybe a decision that will haunt you later on. Better make absolutely sure before you make a decision with those kinds of consequences, that it’s a decision that’s really based on a full understanding. So I think we really need to wrestle with this question, where am I at risk of making a decision now that will haunt me later on? Let me pray.

God, for those of us who are followers of your Son, who have a relationship with you through faith in what Jesus did for us, we come before you and we ask for humility, and we ask that you would enable us to receive the word that you’ve given us through your Apostle Paul. To recognize that we are still children, that what we see is not the whole story. Lord, would you guard us from mistakes that will haunt us later. And especially as this passage Jesus would you guard us from mistakes that would divide the unity of the Church that it would drive away diversity in the Church. That would keep us from moving forward in our mission because we will be haunted by those later on, and we don’t want that. So that we receive your Word that love is the tie that binds these together. And we ask that you give us love. Reveal to us the places that we have not acted with love and forgive us. Give us the courage to make amends to say we’re sorry, and to seek reconciliation.

If you’re a follower of Jesus would you do something for me? Would you start praying for the people listening in all of our campuses, watching online, that don’t have a relationship with God. Because I believe they don’t in all of our campuses. There are people listening that, honestly, you’re not a follower of Jesus and a lot of this you’re just like, “I don’t get this, prophecy and tongues and, like, what is that about, none of that connected.” But my guess is this love business did. Love is the secret sauce. It is the tie that binds everything together. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, I want you to hear how much God loves you. We’ve all done wrong, and our sin separates us from God. But God loves you so much, he sent his own Son to die on the cross to pay for your sin in his own blood. Three days later, he rose from the dead. That’s a fact of history.

Faith comes when we decide to trust what he did for us, and when we do that we receive the love of God. Make no mistake, God loves you. But to fully experience that you have to accept the forgiveness that Jesus bought for you. It’s so easy to do. And if you’re listening to this, and you know that you don’t have a relationship with God through faith in what Jesus did, but you’re ready to make that decision, you’re ready to say yes to Jesus, wherever you are you just have this conversation in your heart. You say to God:

God, I’ve done wrong, and I’m sorry. Thank you for loving me, in spite of my sin. Jesus, thank you for dying on the cross. I believe that you rose from the dead, and I understand that because of your love, you are offering me forgiveness, new life, eternal life with God, my Creator. I’m ready to say yes, I’m ready to put my faith in Jesus. So Jesus, I’m saying yes to you. Come into my life, be my Lord and my Savior. I’m yours for now and forever. Amen.

Are you Human?:*