The Gifts of the Spirit - tools of the kingdom

Introduction

 
A couple of miles down the road there is one of those big signs on a trailer outside the 3 Horseshoes adverting a psychic night. Psychic nights are a popular event at pubs, clubs and parties. “Revealing the past, present and future”.
 
A recent YouGov poll (Third Way, December 2010) reported that 22% of people read their horoscope at least once a week.
 
People want to hear from “out there”. They want some external observation and explanation for their lives.
 
I am concerned about this – not just what people are being told but that their hopes are being manipulated and raised (after they pay their fee). I suppose sometimes it is harmless speculation but often people who claim some level of additional knowledge or power are not coming from a healthy place. Indeed, I believe it can be very dangerous.
 
These are the works of the enemy, the occupants of darkness and Jesus came to overturn the enemy’s plans, he came to bring light into dark places. This is the purpose of his kingdom.
 
So I am really keen that we learn to hear his voice and become effective messengers of truth and light. He does release power and knowledge – for the benefit of his kingdom and his people, for good. One of the ways he does this, as we discovered last week, is through spiritual gifts.
 

I Corinthians 12:1-11

Following on from my introduction to the gifts of the Spirit last week I would like to examine this passage in more depth as it provides some really useful insights into how God speaks and what our role in this is.
 

Verse 3
Sets the context. Basic discernment. Does the exercise of spiritual gifts point us toward Jesus, glorify him, acknowledge him as the beginning and end of the story? If so, this is good. If not, it isn’t. Whenever you see things operating in the para-normal level, psychics or spiritualism – ask, where does this point us?
Verse 4-6
Trinitarian package.
Holy Spirit – he is the gift, our relationship with the person of the Holy Spirit is how we are offered participation in his gifts – not our gifts, his.
Jesus, our Lord – embodies all the offices of the gifts, the only person who ever has or will. Prophet, pastor, healer, preacher and so on. Diakonos – the servant role, office, function. As we use the gifts and become familiar and useable by the Holy Spirit we may also be able to serve in one or more giftings.
God – the energes – energy, source of power, putting into operation
 
X factor – some of them can sing. As they go through the competition and get more practiced and confident, they are helped by other gifted people, they become singers. They get given the opportunity and the microphone and the power and then we can all get to hear them – and vote!
 
The Holy Spirit has many, many gifts he distributes to us, as we follow Jesus’ example and obediently use them and become more familiar with them we may, lightly, carry the office or role in the gifting. But it is all enabled and given energy and power, only by God.
Verse 7
Another discernment exercise. Is it good, is it for everyone’s benefit. For profit. Does it help us. If so it is good.
Verses 8-10
Some of the gifts, there are many more. Any ability or activity that can be inspired and encouraged by the HSp to become an operation of the Spirit. A spiritual gift.
 
How? Listen (to the God who speaks), obey, take risks, practice.
 
Some are for use in the community of faith (Ephesians 4) but many are for use in the normal course of our lives, with neighbours, friends, family, work colleagues, strangers. Think about how Jesus operated in the gifts of the Spirit all the time – in all sorts of circumstances, not just the synagogue.
 
Don’t let’s get stuck in a rut of just using our knowledge and skills but let us ask God to give us his gifts so that we can get stuck into this kingdom project of rolling back the work of the enemy.
 
Yes, learn and train in housegroups, practice here, but listen and obey the Spirit’s promptings in the marketplace too.
Verse 11
Diairoun, present participle. The Spirit is always continuing to distribute his gifts. Cf Ephesians 4:8. They don’t belong to us; the distribution is not in our hands. When we are operating in the gifts it isn’t a permanent gifting, it is not “my” gift – it’s his and he is graciously sharing it with me for now. This isn’t our identity – although we may operate in one gift a lot. Our identity is, as it is for everyone else, the sinner loved by God.
 
God is speaking to us all the time, all the time, all the time. Are we listening? This is a good thing, it will help us as we seek to follow him and make us more effective in extending our bit of the kingdom.
 
Think of a joiner working with a toolbox. He faces something he wants to fix; he puts his hand in the toolbox looking for the right tool. When done, he puts it back. Over time he may get more familiar with the tool box and its contents and thus more confident and better at handling the gift/tool safely. But the gifts/tools always belong in the God’s tool box.
 
 

 

Resources

Jack Deere – Surprised by the Voice of God
Ministry of the Kingdom – 6 week School of Ministry course run at the Vineyard

Back to the beginning – to conclude

I started these two talks by explaining that the context for the presence of the Holy Spirit and for God speaking into our lives through the gifts of the Spirit is that the idols of this world can’t see, or hear, or speak – but our God sees, listens and speaks. He speaks because he wants to restore relationship with us – with the person he has created you to be. He does this primarily through the life, death and resurrection of his Son, Jesus. He continues to speak to us through the Holy Spirit in our lives.
 
Followers of Jesus are instructed to seek after the gifts of the Spirit, earnestly. We are instructed to go with the good news in words and deeds into a dark and hurting world. We need the gifts of the Holy Spirit to do this. But what we are seeking is not just power and equipment, we are seeking the restoration of a relationship with our loving creator and heavenly Father. When his Holy Spirit fills us we can experience His gifts and begin to live more effectively as his followers and disciples.
David Flowers, 04/12/2010
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