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Jack Graham - The Gifts that Keep on Giving

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    Jack Graham - The Gifts that Keep on Giving
TOPICS: Christmas, The Spirit of Christmas

We talked the last time about the filling of the Spirit, how we're to live and walk in the Spirit, under the control of the Holy Spirit who is resident in our lives, that He is real in our lives and therefore, He should be always relevant day after day. And the way to experience Christmas every day of your life, the real Christmas is Christ in you, the Spirit of God. So turn in your Bibles to the book of Romans, chapter 12, "For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace that is given to us".

And then he mentions several gifts of the Holy Spirit. This is not an all-inclusive list, but it is suggestive of the kinds of gifts that we possess. "If prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts (or encourages), in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; and the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness".

Again, turn in your Bibles to 1 Peter chapter 4 and the tenth and eleventh verses: "As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace", and more gifts are exchanged here, "Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies-in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen".

Now, gifts glorify God, because these gifts come from God, delivered by the Holy Spirit. And I have three important points to make today, and I would encourage you to write these down. Number one, you are a gifted child. When Christ was born shepherds and wisemen and others came, bringing gifts to worship the King, to glorify the King at the birth of Christ. He was born so that we could be born again. And in keeping with the gifts that were given that first Christmas, when we are born again, when we experience a spiritual birthday and are born into the family of God, then we are also given gifts. Just as Jesus was given gifts in His birth, in our birth in Christ we now have these gifts delivered by the Holy Spirit. And every Christian, every child of God, every member of the family of God has been given a gift or gifts, spiritual endowments, enrichments, manifestations, ministries in order that we may serve God and glorify God. The gifts are for the glory of God, never for the glory of man!

And we've learned because of the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives that God will enable each one of us and equip you to serve Him, to serve Christ. And when we are available and usable, God will help each one of us to discover our call in life, our mission in life. Your job is what you are paid to do; your ministry is what you are called to do, what you are made by God to do. God works in our salvation, and then commands us to work out that salvation. And having considered the power of the Spirit, the empowerment of the Spirit within us, His power at work in us, now it's time to look at His gifting. He has supernaturally equipped each one of us, every born-again child of God for the purpose of serving Him; building up and growing the family of God and bringing glory to God.

And you, child of God, are gifted by the Holy Spirit. You are a gifted child and these are the gifts that He gives to us at salvation. Therefore, they are salvation gifts. They're also spiritual gifts. Not natural talents or abilities, though our talents and our gifts are often converging. But these are spiritual gifts, not natural talent. These are salvation gifts, these are sovereign gifts. In other words, these are gifts that are discerned by God Himself who gives the gifts. It will do you no good whatsoever to pound your head on the floor and demand some gift from God. That would be like, you know, so many Christmases today I get a list now from the family, you know. Amazon lists, and others. No surprise anymore. Old dad doesn't get to decide what the gifts are. But God does, our Father, decide what the gifts that He gives that we receive.

So these are sovereign gifts, these are selected gifts and these are service gifts. In other words, that we may serve God. These are ministry gifts that are given today for believers in the body of Christ. I just briefly identified them. Look again in your text. Prophecy. That's not foretelling, as it is forthtelling; it's the preaching gift. It's the proclamation gift. That gift is a gift of the Holy Spirit.

When God called me to be a preacher, I was a young man, a teenager. But it wasn't because God looked down and saw that I was such a gifted person, talented person. You know I sold popcorn and peanuts over at the Cotton Bowl when the Cowboys first came to town in the early 1960's. And I was out there, shouting peanuts and popcorn and, you know, I think I got my preacher voice out there at the stadium when I was about 13-14 years old. My dad would drop me off at the stadium and I would stay and sell enough popcorn so I could sit down and watch the second half. And you could get fired for doing that but nevertheless, that was one of my first jobs, and over there selling popcorn in the stadium. And I was just thinking: that's how long I've been a Cowboy fan. I'm sort of like at this point like the guy who said when I die, I want six Dallas Cowboys to be my pall bearers. They said, "What on earth"! He said, "Yeah, I want those guys to let me down one last time".

You may not remember this message but you'll remember that joke! Probably by this afternoon. See what I tell you? You got to be mentally tough these days to be a Cowboy fan. That's for sure. But it wasn't as though God looked down from heaven and saw a 13-year-old boy and said, "Boy, that guy's got a great voice! That kid's fired up! He can sell popcorn; maybe he can sell Jesus"! No, that's not how it happened. God wasn't looking for some superstar. God saw someone, a little boy, a young man that he could use and gifted me to do what God has gifted me to do. And what He's done for me, He's does for you, because you also are gifted by the Holy Spirit, if you are a child of God.

So not everyone is a preacher. So you may not have the gift of prophecy but there's service in verse 7. That's also called the gift of helps or the gift of ministry. And this is a very important gift because we need so many helpers to serve Christ, who are willing to stand beside, maybe not platform people or public people, but godly, dedicated people who are serving the Lord in ways that honor and glorify God, and build up the church. Then there's teaching, there's the teaching gift. That's the ability to explain the Scripture and apply the Scripture. The ability that some people have, this spiritual ability, not just to teach science but to teach the Scripture. And they have this high aptitude to deliver the Word of God and help people grow in their faith. That's teaching, and oh, how we need the teaching ministry in the church today.

Then the one who exhorts, that's the gift of exhortation. This is also called the gift of encouragement. Thank God for the people in the church who are always encouraging. There are many critics, but thank God for the encouragers. And then the one who contributes in generosity; that's the gift of giving. Now as in all cases, everyone is to teach, everyone is to preach, everyone is to help, everyone is to encourage. You have scriptures on this. Everyone is to give, we know that, but there are certain people who are gifted to give. They may be gifted actually to make money and give away that money. Or they may not have much money at all, but they have a great passion to see the Gospel proclaimed to the ends of the earth, the church to be blessed. So, even though they don't have a lot of money, they're gifted to give, so they give their time, their talent, their treasure. They give their money; they give their ministry. It's the gift of giving.

And then there's the one who leads, that's the gift of administration. Be grateful for people who have the gift of organizing and administrating spiritual organization. And the body of Christ is always to be accomplished in decency and in order. And this is an organization. Like a body it is organized, and so we need people to organize groups and organize ministries and organize classes and so on. And to lead! So some people are gifted to lead, to administrate. And they're to do that with zeal and passion. And then the one who does acts of mercy. This is the mercy gift. What a beautiful gift, and such, a needed gift to comfort and console. And not to do it with a sad face but notice, with cheerfulness. You don't want to be like an advance agent to the undertaker when you walk into somebody's hospital room. The gift of mercy brings cheerfulness and happiness and merciful graces to people all around. It's an entire study series on these various gifts. But I just briefly point these out to you, to say, one of these, or among these larger categories, you are gifted to serve God.

Point number one, you're a gifted child. Point number two, everybody is somebody in His body. And that's why we're told once again in Romans 12, look at it in verses 4 and 5. Paul uses the illustration of the physical body to describe the church body, the body of Christ. One body, many members and the members do not have the same function. Just as your physical body has various members, body parts, and each one has a function, some private, some public. Everyone, therefore, has a place, a membership in the body of Christ. A role, a responsibility, a function as active members. The New Testament church really had no concept of inactive members. But rather, every member, a minister. We like to say that here at Prestonwood. Every member, a minister! It doesn't mean that every member is a pastor, a shepherd leader of the church, but that every member of the church has a responsibility to serve God and to exercise these spiritual gifts in spiritual ministry to, again, glorify God, grow the church. Every member a minister!

Now not every member is a pastor, as I said. In fact, look in Ephesians chapter 4, verses 11 through 13. Speaking of gifts, God has gifted certain people to lead the church. These are the gifted "apostles and prophets", verse 11, "evangelists, shepherds", that's the pastor, "and teachers". And so what is the evangelist, the shepherd, the teacher to do in the church? What am I supposed to do? "To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood". So the goal in the body of Christ in the church in ministry is unity and maturity. "And the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ". That as a body we would look like Christ.

Remember the passage we talked about earlier on the coming of the promise of the Holy Spirit? Jesus said, "When I'm gone, the Comforter will come". And He said, "Greater works than I have done will you do". Jesus was focusing then on the future with the church and the church, His body on earth, you and me and churches everywhere with Christ as the head, as we are doing work around the world and through the centuries. And the great works and the great witness of the Gospel of Christ who's the body of Christ in the fullness of the Holy Spirit. That's what He's talking about. So I have, as your pastor, along with our associate ministers and pastors and teaching pastors, and all the rest, it's our goal to help you discover, develop, and deploy your spiritual gifts for the work of the ministry.

The reasons that so many churches fail is you've got so few people actually functioning in the body and the building of the body in the church. You've got 20% doing 80% of the work, 20% giving 80% of the money, 20% offering 80% of the ministry. And that is not how the church of the Lord Jesus is to function. When I was a young pastor, just out of college, really still in seminary. I began to study the church and the kind of pastor that I wanted to be. And as I studied my Bible I realized if I want to be a pastor, yes, I'm going to preach, yes, I'm going to evangelize, but the goal is exactly what you've read here in Ephesians for me to equip God's people to be evangelists, to equip God's church to grow in faith and teach God's people, to equip God's people to enjoy their gift, exercise those gifts and engage those gifts in ministry so that it's not just me, not just let the professionals do it, or the preacher do it. It's not the man behind the pulpit; it's the people in the pews that lead and govern the church!

One final point, unwrap your gifts and use them to the glory of God. So, the question is how do you discover and then deploy your spiritual gifts? How do you find out? Well, there are various ways you can discover your spiritual gifts and, again, that's a full message series. But I want to give you a series of words and hang some thoughts on these words that will help you understand how you can go about getting to know your gifts and using them. The first word is affinities. Those things that are favorable, those things that you like to do, those things that you enjoy doing. Don't think that the will of God is something you have to endure. The will of God in your life is something you enjoy and so are the gifts of God.

So there are certain affinities that you have, certain interests, let's put it that way, just certain interests in various, again, we're talking about meeting people's needs. We're talking about serving in the church, we're talking about doing God's work. So you have, if you're walking in the Spirit, if you are full of the Spirit, you have these affinities. Secondly, you do have abilities. What are your abilities? Start with your natural talent. Now I told you earlier gifts and talents are not the same. Natural talents and supernatural spiritual gifts are different. But there's often, I've observed over the years, a convergent with a person's natural abilities and personalities that connect them with their gift.

So as you look at your own life, in fact in Romans 12 earlier, the Apostle Paul talked about presenting your body as a living sacrifice for God and then he said, "Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but think soberly about yourself". So that means, you know, think about your own ability, your own affinity. What do you enjoy doing? What can you do? Some, God has given you a natural affinity, an ability with money, in administration. Others, with service of some kind. You're a hard worker. I could go on and on. Then affections. The next word is affections. What does your heart tell you to do? What is your spiritual sweet spot, if you will?

When you do this, you know, your gifts, if you're serving Christ and operating in your gifts you shouldn't burn out, you should burn on. A lot of people burn out in ministry because they're operating outside their gift and they're doing stuff that God never called them or commanded them to do in the work. And so what are your affections? What are your loves as well as your likes? What does your heart tell you to do? And then activities is the next thing. Second Timothy 1:6 says, "Fan into flame the gift of God". Or another way it's translated, "stir up the gift that is in you". Like coals in a fire. So you have this gift, it's dormant in your life, but maybe the coals have been burning low, and you need to stir up the Spirit of God in your life.

Don't quench the Holy Spirit, the Bible says. And so as you fan the flame, as you stir up the gift of God, you do it by actually doing things. Start by obeying God right where you are. Do the thing that's right in front of you. Don't wait until someone asks you, but begin serving the Lord. Pitch in and help. And you can in some level, even by the process of elimination, those things that light you up and those things that drain you and maybe deplete you as compared to what fills you and uses you. These are the activities. So start doing some things. Have you noticed that God uses busy people? It's true. And when you give your time, your talent to the Lord, when you serve the Lord first and put Him first in your life, you'll find that your time, if you will manage it well, and even the miracles that take place in your life, you'll see that you do have time.

There's really no excuse not to serve God. Fan the flames, get active, get busy. Do God's will today. A lot of people are interested in God's will on a mission field; we can't get them across the street to tell somebody about Jesus. But people want to go on some mission trip somewhere and that's wonderful. I hope you'll go on a mission trip, yet we have trouble getting people to serve in the nursery. They want to go on a mission trip but won't serve in the nursery. I don't get that! So everyone can serve in some way, and so start serving and see how God uses you.

And then the next one and the last one is affirmation. When you are serving the Lord, people will affirm you, people will encourage you. Somebody who's an encourager, has that gift, will come along and say to you, "Man, you're doing an incredible job. You are unbelievable at this. Thank you for serving in this way," and so on. Maybe a pastor will say to you, "Hey, we need you in this area because we see that you can really make a difference", and so on. And so affirmations will come. So, there you are. Affinities, abilities, affections, activities, affirmation. And with these will come these three things, and I'm finished.

Empowerment. You know when you have a gift you get a gift at Christmas, a new computer, a new Apple Watch, a new toaster... does anybody use a toaster these days? But you know, it's an electric appliance. You get this gift, you put it on the shelf, you got to plug it in for it to work. You got to charge it up for it to work! So spiritual gifts must be plugged in to work, plugged into the Spirit, to the power of the Holy Spirit. So, there's empowerment. Again, if you are walking in the Spirit, if you are filled with the Spirit, you will be gifted to serve God! You will serve God in His church if you're filled with the Spirit.

And then there's engagement as I've been talking about. Actually, engaging your gift in ministry and doing it, and finally there will be enjoyment. There's nothing more fulfilling and satisfying in your life than to serve the Lord and to do it with gladness and joy and to make a difference in this world for Jesus sake. Because, you know what? One of these days we're all going to stand before God at the judgment seat of Christ and give an account with our lives. This is not a judgment of condemnation.

The judgment that took care of the cross, took care of our sins. This is not a judgment of sin but it's the judgment seat of Christ, and there is one, according to the Bible. We all will be judged, evaluated based on what we did with the life that we were given. A judgment according to service. Don't waste your gifts. Unwrap your gift, give your life away in serving Christ. And one day when you stand before Him you will celebrate forever the fact in one brief moment of time in eternity you had an opportunity by His grace, because of His gift, by the power of His Spirit to serve Him, and then we'll serve Him forever in heaven. Amen.
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