Sunday Sermon: ‘The Blessing of Being a Blessing’

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Introduction:

Have you ever experienced the blessing of being a blessing? Perhaps you prepared a meal or mowed a yard or did something else to help someone in need. Maybe you gave someone some money. How did it make you feel? I know how it made you feel because God has given me such opportunities and every time I have given of myself to help someone in need, I have always been the one who received the blessing. The Bible says that it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35)

This is especially true for Christians. God has created us to be caring people. The Bible says that God is love and those that are born of Him, will be known by their love as well. (Jn 13:35)

The title of today’s message is: ‘The Blessing of Being a Blessing.’ As we continue our study of becoming Spiritual FIT, I want us to focus upon ministry within the body of Christ. Jesus said:

 “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister…” Mt 20:28

“He that is greatest among you shall be your servant.” Mt 23:11

I.  A Body of Believers

A. Called to Be a Body

The Bible uses many descriptive titles for the church: Bride, Building, Family, and Flock. All of these titles help to tell us something about the nature of the church. But the primary title that is used is – Body. The church is a body; the Body of Christ.

Romans 12:3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think ; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, (physical body) and all members have not the same office: (the same function) 5 So we, (the church) being many, (members) are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

The church is not a human invention or institution. Jesus said: “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Jesus was not saying – “I will build a building” for the church is not a building. Jesus was saying – “I will build My body which will consist of all those who put their faith and trust in Me.” The word ‘church’ means: {an assembly, a gathering, a company of Christians}. Jesus was saying – “I will build a fellowship and community of Christ-followers.”

The Bible tells us that the church is a body with Christ as its head. (see Ephesians 1:22-23) Every individual who puts their faith and trust in Christ as their Savior become a part His body. The Bible says –

1 Corinthians 12:13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Paul also tells us that just as the human body has many individual parts, so does the body of Christ.

Romans 12:5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

Twin Oaks Baptist Church is a lot of different people from a lot of different backgrounds who have been brought together in unity under the headship of Jesus Christ.

Why does God want us to consider ourselves to be a body? There are at least two reasons:

1. For Unity

God wants His people to be united. Jesus prayed:

That they all may be one, as thou, Father, in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us…” (Jn 17:21 RHE)

God wants us to be one with Him and one with each other.  Note again the words of the Apostle Paul-

Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

a. There is Diversity Within the Body of Christ

Being united doesn’t mean that we all look alike, or that we necessarily always think or even act alike. Just like the human body has many individual parts which look and operate differently, so does the body of Christ. We’re all different and that’s good. Consider Paul’s teaching found in the book of 1 Corinthians –

1 Corinthians 12:14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot shall say, “Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body”; is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear shall say, “Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body”; is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?

The hand and the foot are very different. So is the ear and the eye. They’re different and that’s good. We need both hands and feet; eyes and ears. Likewise, we need all the individuality that’s within the church. For instance, consider Simon Peter and Matthew. Peter was a rough fisherman and Matthew was a refined accountant. I’m sure that they were very different in their approach to life. But that’s good. The Bible says that ‘iron sharpens iron.’ (Pr 27:17)

The body of Christ is comprised of many different individuals. We’re different ages with different backgrounds and different life experiences. We have different temperaments, talents, and abilities. We also have different spiritual gifts. I have often wondered if God does not take into consideration our temperament and life experiences when He decides what kind of gift He wants to give us. I believe that He fashions each of us into the unique vessel He wants us to be. The Bible says:

1 Corinthians 12:18 But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.

God chooses which gift or gifts we will have. He arranges each part exactly where He wants it to be. God chooses who / what / where / when / how He will use each of us for His glory.

b. There is Unity Within the Body of Christ

Over and over again in the first few chapters of the book of Acts we read how that the church was of ‘one accord.’ What caused such unity in a diversified group of individuals? Before there can be ‘external unity’, there must first be ‘internal unity.’ The early church was united externally because they were united internally. Though Paul lists a seven-fold internal unity in Ephesians 4, let me try to boil it down to just three key elements:

i.   There is Unity Because There is One Lord Who is Over All

ii.  There is Unity Because There is One Spirit Who is in Us All

iii. There is Unity Because There is One Truth That Guides Us All

2. For Encouragement and Support

The Bible says:

Ecclesiastes 4:9 Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. 11 And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken. NLT

Many have said that the third strand of this strong cord is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. When God can take two believers and weave them together with Himself, He can fashion something that is unstoppable. Jesus said that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He will be there in their midst. (see Matthew 18:20)

Consider Paul’s words to the Corinthians:

1 Corinthians 12:26 And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

When one member of the body of Christ suffers, the entire body should suffer. And when one member of the body of Christ rejoices, the entire body should rejoice. We are one together in Christ.

The Bible says – “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1) Unity within the body of Christ is wonderful, yet there is an enemy to our unity. You might think I am speaking of Satan, but actually I referring to ourselves. The greatest enemy to our spiritual unity as the body of Christ is our own pride and ego. It is selfishness and self-centeredness that destroys the unity of the church. That is why the Bible stressed the important of always being humble and quick to forgive. Paul tells us to not think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Instead, we should view ourselves with great humility and practice self-control over our emotions. (See Romans 12:3) We should see ourselves simply as His vessels of His grace.

B. Called to Function As a Body

Many years ago, pastor and author Ray Steadman wrote a book he entitled – ‘Authentic Christianity.’ In this book he spoke of something he called –‘body life.’ We are not only to call ourselves a body; we are to function like a body. We are the body of Christ.

Consider once again Paul’s words to the church at Rome:

Romans 12:4 For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same office: (function) 5 So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

As the human body has many different parts that do many different things, so does the body of Christ. The Bible calls these various functions – “Spiritual Gifts.”

III. Vessels of Grace

1 Corinthians 12:1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant. (to be uninformed)

Since Paul doesn’t want us to be uninformed about spiritual gifts, we would do well to take some time to study them.

A. ‘Spiritual’ – Gift

 First I want us to emphasize the word – ‘spiritual’. Although a spiritual gift may involve our natural abilities, talents, and temperament; it is something much more than this. It is a ‘spiritual’ gift because it originates from the Holy Spirit Himself. It is the  Spirit who imparts to each of us a special spiritual ability to become the vessels of His grace. Paul writes-

1 Corinthians 12:7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

The word ‘manifestation’ means to reveal. The Bible says of Christ – “This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory…” (John 2:11) As Jesus began to perform miracles, He revealed His wonder and glory.

Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit desires to manifest His grace through the life and ministry of every believer. That’s why it’s so important that Christians faithfully attend church and participate in its ministries. God wants to use each of us to be a blessing to each other.

B. Spiritual – ‘Gift’  

Now we place the emphasis on the word – ‘gift.’ It is the Greek word {chrisma} from which we get the English word – charismatic.

The Greek word {chrisma} comes from another Greek word – {charis}. Charis is the word for grace. Therefore we see that a spiritual gift is actually a ‘gift of grace.’

What is grace? Grace is God’s favor that is shown toward us. Grace is His divine influence upon our lives. The Bible says that we’re not only saved by grace, (Ephesians 2:8-9), but that we stand in God’s grace as well. (Romans 5:2; 1 Peter 5:12) It is grace that:

* brings to Christ;
* strengthens by Christ;
* and causes us to become more like Christ.

Everything that we have as a believer comes to us as a result of God extending to us His grace. The Bible tells us that everything God has, does, or will do in our lives is to the ‘praise of the glory of His grace.’ (Ephesians 1:6)

How does God give us His grace? One of the great ways He does so is through the exercise of the body’s various spiritual gifts.

Romans 12:6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us…

When Christians exercise their spiritual gifts, they become vessels of God’s grace.

As I was preparing for this message I read something that really caught my attention. Ray Steadman wrote  –

“Many people think that the incarnation of Jesus Christ began at the first Christmas and ended when Jesus was taken up into the clouds. But in fact, that was only the beginning of the incarnation of Christ. The process of the incarnation is still going on.”

Steadman is referring to the church being filled with the Holy Spirit and thus being used for God’s glory. Through the Spirit’s ministry in the body of Christ, God is still manifesting Himself in human flesh.

C. Categories of Spiritual Gifts

The Bible says that there are many different kinds of spiritual gifts. In other words, there are many different ways the Spirit works in and through us. I have often thought of this as a box of crayons with its many colors. As the child uses the various crayons, he or she is adding something special and unique to the picture.

What are some of the various spiritual gifts that the Spirit has given to the church?

Depending upon whose book you read, some estimate that there can be as many as 19 or 20, or as few as 9 or 10. Much of the confusion occurs when trying to determine if all gifts are still active today and if some gifts mentioned are actually the same gifts described in different ways.

I place the various gifts into four different groups or categories:

1. Ministering Gifts

All the gifts are for the purpose of ministry, but some gifts seem to be especially designed to help us minister to the needs of others.

a. The Gifts of Serving and Helping – A spiritually enabled ability to give practical help to those in need

b. The Gift of Giving – A spiritually enabled ability to use money to help those in need

c. The Gift of Showing Mercy – A spiritually enabled ability to empathize and show comfort to those who are hurting

d. The Gift of Encouragement – A spiritually enabled ability to encourage others and cause them to do God’s will

2. Equipping Gifts

Then there are special gifts that the Spirit gives in order to help us grow and develop spiritually. What are some of the equipping gifts?

a. The Gift of Evangelism – A spiritually enabled ability to present the gospel in an effective manner

b. The Gift of Prophecy – A spiritually enabled ability to present special revelation from God to the church

c. The Gift of Pastor / Teacher (Shepherding) – A spiritually enabled ability to care for the church through spiritual teaching and guidance

d. The Gift of Teaching – A spiritually enabled ability to understand the Word of God and to present it to other believers in a clear and understandable way

e. The Gifts of Wisdom and Knowledge – A spiritually enabled ability to see and understand details that may not be apparent to others and to guide with biblical wisdom

3. Leadership Gifts

My third category is what I call ‘Leadership Gifts.’

a. The Gift of an Apostle- A spiritually enabled ability to lay the ground work for the early church

b. The Gift of Administration – A spiritually enabled ability organize and lead the various ministries of the church

c. The Gift of Faith – A spiritually enabled ability to believe God for the miraculous and to be used by Him in order for Him to help perform His mighty works

d. The Gift of Discernment – A spiritually enabled ability to discern between the activity of the Spirit vs the activity of Satan

4. Sign Gifts

The last category are those that should be classified as ‘Sign Gifts.’ As the name suggests, these gifts were given for the purpose of being a sign. I base this label upon something said in scripture –

Mark 16:20 And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.

The sign gifts were used to help confirm the fact that the gospel the Apostles were preaching was from God. The supernatural miracles of the various sign gifts was God’s stamp of approval.

a. The Gifts of Tongues and Interpretation A spiritually enabled ability to speak in another language which has not been naturally acquired with the purpose of confirming the gospel message

b. The Gift of Healing A spiritually enabled ability to be used by God to heal those who are sick in a supernatural way

c. The Gift of Miracles A spiritually enabled ability to be used by God to perform supernatural miracles and mighty works

One group is not better than the others. We all need care and compassion. We all to grow and develop as a believer. We all need someone to help us get organized and to move forward in our various areas of ministry.

III. A Living Sacrifice

At this point I would imagine that many of you are thinking:

“I have no idea what my spiritual gift is.”

“I wonder if I even have a spiritual gift.”

“I don’t see how God could ever possibly use me.”

First of all, the Bible says that God purposefully chooses to use ‘weak vessels’ so that the glory will go to Him and not to the vessel. (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31) Forty years ago God looked at an eighteen year old young man that was headed in the wrong direction and saw in him the potential to make him a pastor. Forty years later that same man often questions both his ability and worthiness to be used by God, and yet he keeps moving along and experiencing God’s blessings. Brethren, if God can use me, He can use you.

Secondly, let me answer the question as to whether or not you have a spiritual gift. If you are a child of God, you do. You may not know what it is and it may need some development, but the potential is there because the Spirit is there. The Bible says:

“A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (1 Cor 12:7 NLT)

What we need to focus upon is first helping you to discover your spiritual gift and then helping you develop it so that God can use it for His glory.

So how do we go about discovering and developing our spiritual gift or gifts? (Note that I said –‘gifts’. Some, perhaps many, believers have more than one spiritual gift.)

A. Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts

There are a lot of ways to help us discover our spiritual gift.

1. Submit Ourselves to Him

Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

For those of you who are familiar with that passage, let me remind you that Paul said it just before he began teaching on spiritual gifts.

2. Praying for Guidance

Secondly, the Bible says that if we lack wisdom in regards to doing God’s will, we should do is to pray and ask for His guidance. (see James 1:5) The first thing the Apostle Paul did after his conversion was to pray – “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” The Bible says that God answered that request by saying – “rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (see Acts 9:6)

When I first started yielding my life to the Lord, I had no idea of what He wanted me to do. Becoming a pastor was the last thing on my mind. I simply submitted to go through the door that was open which led to the next and to the next. I often think of the Christian life as a pilgrimage. We on an adventure with God.

3. Study Scripture

Passages such as Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 can help us learn a lot about the various gifts. In addition, there are a number of books and resources available for us to study, I have a few books that I can make available to those who ask and in addition, I have printed out a few copies of a booklet that I have written about spiritual gifts. My booklet is comprised from some of the many devotionals I have written on this subject.

4. Be Who God Has Made You to Be

I think that we should also take into consideration how God has wired us. By that I mean, we should ask ourselves:

Am I more of a caring, helping kind of person,

Or a teaching and equipping kind of person,

Or someone who is able to organize and give guidance?

Another good way of determining our spiritual gift is by talking with others and asking their opinions. Perhaps we might ask them: “How do you see me? Do you see me as someone who leans more toward caring, equipping or leading?”

In addition, many of you might want to take what is often called a Spiritual Gift Inventory. It’s a little test you can take in few minutes by answering a series of questions. See me if you would like to take one of these tests.

5. Be Faithful in the Opportunities God Gives You

Opportunities made available to us is another good indication of who we are, or at least where we are at during this point in our spiritual journey. It is possible that we might have the potential for some type of gift and ministry, but the door hasn’t open yet because we’re not spiritually ready.

B. Developing Your Spiritual Gifts

First we need to realize that we are responsible for what we do with our spiritual gift. Jesus told a parable in Matthew 25 about three servants who were each entrusted with something from their master. Two of the men took what was given to them and used it to produce more. The third man took his gift and buried it in the ground. When the master returned, he praised the first two men for how they had used their talents. “Well done thou good and faithful servant…” the master said to them. But to the third servant, the master rebuked him and called him sinful and lazy. (see Matthew 25:14-30)

Peter tells us that we are ‘stewards’ of the spiritual gifts God has given to us. (see 1 Peter 4:10) A steward is someone who has the responsibility of managing what belongs to another. We are stewards of God’s grace. As followers of Christ, we are responsible for the opportunities and abilities God gives to us.

Here is a simple three step procedure for using your spiritual gift:

1. Get Yourself in Line with the Word of God

2. Yield Yourself to God for Him to Use You However He Chooses

3. Serve in That Capacity as Faithfully as Possible and Look for the Next Open Door

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