Greg Laurie - The Church, A Place to Call Home
Let me ask you a question. How many of you have ever received a gift you did not like? Raise your hand. You did not like it. Okay. So there are people that give you certain gifts. Sometimes it's something you wear, and then they ask you: have you worn that shirt, that blouse, or that coat or whatever it is that I gave you? And you don't want to lie to them because the reality is you set it on fire one hour after because it was so ugly. By the way, if you're one of those people don't give stuff to people and then ask them why they're not wearing it. Chances are you have really bad taste and that's why they're not wearing it. And what I always do when I give a gift is I'll say, "Look, I got you this gift. I know you like this thing and so I hope you like this gift, but if you do not like this gift, here's the gift receipt. Please, return it. I would be thrilled to hear that you returned it and got something you wanted because I'm not going to be the guy that asked you if you're wearing the ugly shirt that I bought you for your birthday".
Or did you eat that fruitcake that I gave you for Christmas? No, but the dog did and he's dead. So... We've all received gifts we didn't really like all that much, and then, of course, if you receive a gift and you don't want to keep it you'll say, "I'll return it", and then maybe you miss that window of opportunity to return the gift and say "I'll give it away again. I'll re-gift it" right. And the only thing you have to be careful of: remember who gave you the gift because it has happened where people have re-gifted the gift to the person who originally gave them the gift. That's called a very awkward moment right. Okay, well, I want to talk to you today about the gifts of the spirit that God has given to each of us. I want you to know that the gift or gifts that God has for you are the perfect gifts and you'll never want to return it. They're just for you and it is for you to receive the gift, to develop the gift and to use the gift for the glory of God.
You know where that happens? That happens right here in the church. And let me just say, I thank God for the church, don't you? I mean the church is so important. Oh, I know we have our flaws. I know we're not perfect, but we're still the best thing going, okay. There's nothing like it. And don't forget, Jesus started the church. We call it an organization and in a technical sense it is, but it's more of an organism, and to be more biblical, it's a family. The church is a gathering of the family, and when I'm a part of the church, as a member of the family, I have a role to play. I need the church and the church needs me, and it is here that I discover and develop my spiritual gifts that I can use for the glory of God.
Let me distinguish between spiritual gifts and natural abilities. We're all born with certain abilities. Some people are naturally athletic, aren't they? And other people are naturally klutzes. Why is that? Some people are artistic, you know, they have a talent for drawing or painting or design. Some people have a talent for music. Some people that don't have a talent for music think they have a talent for music, right. And then some people are good at details, they're good at crunching numbers. They're good at other things. Some people are big picture, some people are small picture, but everybody is born with certain abilities and talents that are also given to us by God. But I want to distinguish between those God-given talents and those spiritually-given gifts from the actual Holy Spirit.
Here's what the Bible says in Romans 12 in verse 5, "We, being many, are one body in Christ. Individually we're members one of another, having gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us. Let us use them". Listen to this: every believer is given gifts of the spirit, if they're filled with the spirit. How many of you have been filled with the Holy Spirit? Raise your hand up. Just in case you haven't been, let's get this covered. Pray this after me. Lord Jesus, fill me with your Holy Spirit. I want all the gifts you have for me. Boom. You're filled with the Holy Spirit. I'm serious. You are. "Wait, now Greg, we have to lower the lights and sing 12 worship songs". No, we don't. Jesus said the father will give the Holy Spirit to those that beg him and plead with him for hours. No. He said the father will give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.
I think we way overly mystify the Holy Spirit himself, and as a result, we overly mystify the gifts of the spirit, but it's a very simple thing, I ask God to fill me with the spirit, and then I ask him to reveal to me what my gift or gifts are. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12, "Concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I don't want you to be ignorant", and this is the problem, is there's a lot of ignorance about the spiritual gifts. Because we don't understand them or because we neglect them, we miss out on them and maybe one of the reasons is because we've seen excess in this area causing us to recoil. Some pretty strange things are done occasionally in the name of the Holy Spirit, so we see that and we say, "Well, I don't want that in my life". So we throw the baby out with the bathwater.
By the way, did anyone ever really throw a baby out with bathwater? I mean that's... What happened there? I guess a lot of family members were using the bath and the baby was last and then later on that night, "Where's the baby"? "I don't know he was in the bath the last time I checked". "Oh, he's sitting in the yard. He's okay". I mean I don't know how that expression originated, but the idea here is we miss out because we don't understand something, yet the Bible specifically tells us that we should not come behind in any spiritual gift as we're waiting for the return of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 1:7 "Don't lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for Christ to be revealed". So we should eagerly desire these gifts.
Going back to Christmas for a moment. Remember when you were a little kid and you wondered if your parents actually got you what you asked for, so you went searching because we all knew where our parents hid the presents, didn't we? So parents, we're not as clever as we think. If you were smart, you learned how to kind of peel the wrapping paper back without ripping it and taking the tape back. "Oh, they got it"! And then you put it back very carefully again, and you can hardly wait until Christmas day to open your gift. That's how we should be with the gifts of the spirit. We should be desiring them. 1 Corinthians 14:1 says "Desire" which means especially want and cultivate spiritual gifts. And listen to this, to not want these gifts, to not discover these gifts, and to not use these gifts could be quenching the Holy Spirit because we're told over in 1 Thessalonians 5:19, "Quench not the spirit, and don't despise prophesying", or literally don't depreciate prophetic utterance or spurn the gifts.
You know what the word "Quench" means? If you're camping and you have your fire going and you break camp, you extinguish the fire. Pour water on it. Maybe shovel some dirt on it. You quench the fire. So maybe the spirits working in your life and he has gifts that he wants to happen in your life and you say, "I don't want any of that". Listen, that's not only a bad idea, that could even be a sin because we're told that to him that knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. So let's desire these gifts and pray that God will send them, so before we identify some of those gifts, and maybe you'll find yourself here in one of these categories, let me come to point number one. First, let's read Romans 12:3. "I give each of you this warning: don't think you're better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves measuring yourselves by the faith that God has given us".
1. You are not all that and a bag of chips. You're not as good as you think you are. You're not as talented as you say you are. You're not as smart as you tell us you all are. You're not all that and a bag of chips, so get realistic. See yourself honestly - that's exactly what Paul is saying. You know, some people love to tell you how well-educated they are or how successful they are or how wealthy they are, so if you're like having a discussion, whatever your story is, they're going to top your story. They're going to do better than you and so they boast a lot about themselves. They know more than you and on and on it goes. They think they're just God's gift to humanity. But as I heard it said, cemeteries are full of indispensable people. You're not as great as you think you are, and that's what Paul is saying, so think clearly, have a balanced realistic view of yourself.
Don't think you're better than you are, but now the other side, don't think you're worse than you are. God's given you gifts so don't say, "I don't deserve this gift". Well, you know you don't deserve it and you never deserved it. You don't deserve salvation, but it's not about that and he's given you this gift so receive the gift, thank God for the gift and start developing the gift, but sometimes people will say, "No. I don't want to do this. I don't feel I'm worthy and I want to be humble. In fact, I want to be so humble I drop the 'h'. I want to be 'umble". I want to be "'umble". No you're just... You're being prideful. People that talk all the time about being humble - isn't that a form of pride? I'm so proud I'm humble. If God gave you a gift develop and use your gift. It's disobedience to not use that gift so start by having an honest evaluation of yourself.
2. We all have a part to play in the church with our spiritual gifts. Verse 4, "Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ's body. We're many parts of one body and we all belong to each other". We're not all the same. Aren't you glad of that? Some people are outgoing. Some people are more reserved. Some people have what we call the gift of gab, other people they don't have a lot to say. Some are big picture. Some are small picture. God loves diversity. He created us differently. You see it reflected in his creation, don't you? All the amazing flowers out there. All the amazing creatures in the ocean. All the amazing animals that he created. Such diversity. So now here's a partial list of the gifts of the spirit. By the way, this is not an exhaustive list. It's just one of many. Another list is found in Ephesians 4 if you want to try to discover what God has gifted you to do.
Romans 12:6, "In his grace God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you're a teacher, teach well, if your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If your gift is giving, then give generously. If God has given you leadership ability take the responsibility seriously, and if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly". Certain phrases bubble up here: do it well, generously, gladly, take this responsibility seriously. Let's start with the first gift that Paul identifies, the gift of prophecy. Prophecies is defined different ways in both the old and New Testament. In one instance it means to speak for another. A representative of God. A mouthpiece for God.
In the Old Testament, God raised up certain prophets. The prophet Isaiah, the prophet Ezekiel, the prophet Jonah and many others, and so in some instances, these prophets foretold the future. Daniel foretold the future in graphic detail. So did Ezekiel, so did Isaiah, so sometimes a prophet predicts the future. Well we find prophets in the New Testament as well. Agabus was called a prophet and he predicted the future for the apostle Paul. Basically, a prophet or a prophesy, is speaking for God, but the prophet must always be held accountable to scripture. I have to be honest, I'm a little suspicious of someone if they come to me and say, "I'm a prophet of God" because sometimes I've seen abuse in this area and the Bible does warn us that there will be false prophets in the last days. However, there is a spiritual gift of prophesy where you speak for the Lord and God speaks through you.
Then there's the spiritual gift of serving. He says here that if you serve others then serve them well. You know, you serve them well. I mean, I love people that love what they do. I was at a Chick-fil-A yesterday getting some gourmet food with the grandkids and you know and they're so polite and so well trained. As you know, it's a Christian-ran organization, right. And I also happen to like Chick-fil-A as just a sandwich too because I wouldn't just eat there because Christians own it. It has to taste good and it does. But the training... Amazing. She was so cheerful. My order was bizarre with all the grandkids and things I was asking for and I get up to the thing and she recognizes me. "Oh you're Greg Laurie". "Oh, yeah how are you"? And we talked a little bit. She's a Christian, so I even understood more why she was the way she was.
I said, "Do you like your job"? She says, "I love my job". And I thought that's how we all should be, whatever you're doing. You know, if you own a Chick-fil-A or if you work in a Chick-fil-A. If you're in the front, if you're in the back, whatever you're doing in the church, in business, if you're called to serve, serve well. Notice that this word "Serve" is put right next to prophesy so we think of someone prophesying as now that is a super cool gift, but serving behind the scenes, well that's not as important. Well, God puts them right next to each other. So if you're teaching the class in Sunday school, that's great, and if you're wiping the noses of the kids who are listening that's great too. Whatever you do, it matters, so if you're called to serve, serve well. Here's the Mark of a person who is called to serve - they see a need and they get in and do something about it.
Some people I think they have a spiritual gift of complaining. They find things that aren't right in their estimation. "Why doesn't the church do this? Why doesn't the church do that"? Well why don't you help us? "I don't feel called". Okay. But a person who is called to serve says, "I see a need and I'm going to meet that need because I want to help out". Has God given you the gift of serving? What a wonderful gift it is. Then, others are called to teach the Word of God. Verse 7: "If you're a teacher, teach well". Work at your craft. Let me use music as an example. If you're a musician, play well, sing well, practice. Know your craft. Work on your skill set. And in the same way, if you're a preacher or a teacher, study, prepare, get that message ready because it's a privilege to speak for God and the Bible actually warns us: don't ask God to make you a teacher because we will receive a greater judgment.
I know that I'll be held accountable for everything I say to you guys, and sometimes people have asked me, "What's it like to stand on the stage and preach to thousands of people in a crusade"? It's an awesome privilege and it's kind of a scary responsibility because I want to make sure that I represent the Lord well and I want to make sure that what I say up there is biblical and I want to rightly divide the Word of God because that's what you're supposed to do when you're a teacher. And I have to tell you that I am the least qualified person who has ever been called to be a teacher. I was a poor student. I wasn't the teacher's pet. I was the teacher's monster. My teachers hated me. I disrupted class. I never studied. I failed tests. I was just a big goof off and God calls me to be a teacher. It's almost laughable, you see. But since then, I've learned to study, to prepare, and to put a lot of effort into those messages.
But the way to know if you're a teacher is if people want to listen to you. It's very simple. I've often said to leaders, "You want to find out if you're a leader, lead and see if anyone follows". Because I do fear that there are some people that think they're called to be teachers that aren't. You know, because the moment they start speaking I'm just like bored. Like two minutes in, I'm bored. What is going on with this person? Well, maybe they're not called to teach. That doesn't make them less of a person or less gifted than another, that just may not be your gift. If you have the gift, you have it. If you don't have the gift, you don't have it, but if you do have the gift develop it, cultivate it, and if you're called to teach then teach well.
But then God's given others the gift of encouraging others. Look at verse 8, "If your gift is to encourage others, well then be encouraging". I like that. You're called to encourage others, well, be encouraging. See, this is because some people don't know how to pay a compliment, right. Always critical. I know people, I won't name them but there's one here... No, not really. Joking. But I know people, everything is a criticism. Whenever I see them, there's going to be a criticism. They're going to critique this or critique that and actually I don't mind being critiqued, but it would be nice to hear just a little affirmation occasionally. Some people don't know how to pay a compliment. It becomes a back-handed compliment also known as complisult.
A complisult is insulting someone while you're supposedly complimenting them. For instance, you meet them for lunch and you say to them, "Hey, you're on time"! That's a compliment, but what you're really saying is "You're always late". Or you say to someone, "You know, you're a really good driver... For a woman". What?! That's an insult. How about this one. I love this one. "You look great for your age". So I look okay, but I'm really old and I have one foot in the grave, is that what you're saying to me? Or how about this, "You're so pretty. Why are you still single"? Wait what? That's not a proper compliment, and there is no spiritual gift of criticism. Now, the word "Exhort" that is used here the gift of exhortation King James is a word that means to motivate, to stimulate, to excite, and when necessary, to correct. There's a place for all these things. Urging someone on, motivating someone to go.
See, the difference between a teacher and someone with the gift of exhortation is a teacher tells you how to do it: someone with the gift of exhortation makes you want to do it. Some people are great with details and Greek and Hebrew and background and scriptures on scriptures and it's fantastic. But then I hear other people and I just hear that message and I want to run out the back door and change the world. And we need both gifts in the church. We need teachers, we need people with the gift of exhortation. Sometimes people have both of those gifts combined together. But these are wonderful gifts that we need to have out there, and I think Jesus actually gives us the model of how to properly exhort in his message to the seven churches of revelation, and as an example, the church of Ephesus.
Loose paraphrase: he says, "You know, I know you guys work hard. I know you're discerning. I know all that you do for me and I appreciate that, but I have this issue with you. You have left your first love, so remember from where you have fallen and repent and do the first works quickly". So he starts with compliments and affirmation. Then, he comes with a word of criticism, then he comes with a solution as well. So deposit a compliment before you make the withdrawal of a criticism. I'm going to go critique you, but I'm going to say something nice to you first and affirming to you, and then I'm going to offer my criticism if it is necessary.
And then there's the spiritual gift of giving. Romans 12:8, "If it is giving, then give generously". Just as God has gifted certain people to be evangelist, but has also called every Christian to evangelize: it is also true that God has given certain people the gift of giving, though it is also true that every Christian should give to the Lord on a regular basis. To fail to do so cheats you of the blessing of laying up for yourself treasures in heaven as well as the sheer joy of giving. Have you discovered the joy of giving? Jesus said it's more blessed or literally happy making to give than it is to receive. There's almost a euphoria. Studies have been done on this, and there's an endorphin release they found medically that happens when you do an act of kindness or generosity for somebody else.
I'm not saying do it for endorphins: do it because the Lord has told you to do it. But this is a funny thing with Christians because this is an area that is a weakness in many believers' lives. Studies have been done and it's quite clear that 10-20 percent of people in an average congregation do the giving that underwrites the whole work. That means 80 percent of the people are either not giving at all, or at best they're giving in a haphazard or sporadic way. That means all those people are missing out on the blessing of giving, and I don't understand why when we get to the subject we recoil. It's like we believe everything the Bible says about the meaning of life. We believe everything the Bible says about the afterlife. We believe everything the Bible says about everything else, but when it comes to the subject of money and giving we say, "Eh, I don't know about that".
Why is that? Because the Bible actually tells us that he wants us to bring our offerings to him. Here's an amazing promise we've all heard in Malachi 3. It says, "Should people cheat God, yet you've cheated me. They asked, 'when did we cheat you?' the Lord said, 'you cheated me of the tithes and offering due to me'". Then God makes his amazing promise to the faithful giver. "Bring all of the tithes into the storehouse so there will be enough food in my temple", listen to this, "'if you do,' says the Lord, 'I'll open up the windows of heaven for you and I'll pour out a blessing so great, you won't have enough room to take it in. Try it. Put me to the test'". This isn't so much about what I'm supposed to do. This is about what God is going to do. I suggest to you the reason many people get themselves into trouble financially is because they disobey God.
Learn to give. You say, "What's a tithe"? Ten. Ten percent. You have 10 pennies, one penny goes to God. You have $10, one dollar goes to God. Do the math. Extrapolate it. That's how it works. But you don't just bring your tithe, you also bring your offerings to him. Listen to what he says. Listen to this promise. 2 Corinthians 9:6 "Whoever sows sparingly will reap sparingly. Whoever sows generously will reap generously, for God loves a cheapskate". Oh. It doesn't say that does it? "For God loves a cheerful giver" is what it does say. So if I'm generous, here's what the Lord promises: God will generously provide all you need and then you'll have plenty left over to give to others. I'm telling you, if we would obey God in this area it could revolutionize your finances and it could revolutionize your life.
God says, "Put me to the test. Bring your tithes. Bring your offerings to me. I'll open up the windows of heaven and it will overflow. You won't have room enough to contain it all". So there is the giving that every Christian should engage in, and then there is the gift of giving, and it's a funny thing, you know, you don't have to be wealthy to have the gift of giving. I know some wealthy people who are very generous and have this gift, but I know people who are living on a more moderate income that also have the gift of giving. They're just always doing things for other people and you'll say, "Oh, that's too generous". And they say, "Oh no, I'm happy to do it". They have the gift of giving. What a great gift that is. If you have that gift, use that gift for God's glory. Again, the Bible says, "Don't neglect the gift that is in you" or as another translation put it, "Keep your gift dusted off and in use".