INTRODUCTION – The apostle Paul, who spent a good portion of his life as a zealous Pharisee – trying to earn his way to heaven, and trying to convince others of his self made righteousness through the law; and trying to destroy anyone who didn’t see spirituality the way he did – – once his eyes were opened to the true way to heaven and the only source of righteousness – said this of Jesus Christ, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him…” Phil. 3:7-9a
The most consuming passion of Paul’s life became knowing Jesus Christ. That more than anything else is what drove him and centered him. And that more than anything else enabled and motivated Paul to die to any right or entitlement or past accomplishment or potential achievement or financial attainment that might keep him from knowing Christ in all His fullness and glory and majesty.
I trust you are here this morning because you have come to a point in life where nothing else really matters but knowing Him. If you are not there yet, if you continue to seek Him, He will get you there. And I trust you are aware that we will spend the rest of eternity getting to know Him because His glory and majesty and greatness is that seemingly infinite and multifaceted.
Because of the way King Jesus – the Head of the Church has been working and moving of late, and because the consuming focus of our society at this time of the year is our giving of gifts (or receiving them) – – it seemed to me that a great way for us to begin the month of December would be to focus our thoughts for a time on Jesus – the Giver of Gifts.
The apostle Paul spoke of Him in Ephesians 4:7 as He who “gave gifts to men” – a passage that goes on to discuss how He gave spiritual gifts to His body so it could function properly and carry on His work on the earth.
To appreciate this giving aspect of His nature and His work of giving gifts to men, we need first to reflect back upon His life and ministry while on earth. Jesus Christ’s ministry on earth only lasted about 3 and a half years, but what He accomplished in those 3 and a half years is nothing short of breathtaking. For instance: – He taught and instructed thousands and thousands of people all over that part of the world on how to know and walk with God and operate in the kingdom He had come to establish – opening their eyes to things they had never known, or been able to understand before. – He healed blind, lame, mute, diseased, and just plain ole sick people. – He delivered many from demonic oppression and bondage – He fed thousands of hungry people miraculously when they had traveled to remote places to see Him, and hear from Him, and be ministered to by Him. – He ministered to oppressed women in a way that no man had ever ministered to a woman before – – giving them hope and dignity and value in a society that had lost its way and left women in the dust. – He exposed corruption and hypocrisy – especially among religious leaders, though also among lawyers and others. – He gave great dignity and value to children, and rebuked again and again the religious leaders and even His own followers for not doing so. – He did countless other miracles to demonstrate His deity as well as to solve problems and meet needs. – And the list goes on….
The problem I want to present to you this morning is – 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven, and since then – no longer do we have the privilege of having Jesus bodily and physically in our earthly domain. He will return bodily and physically at the end of time, but until then, He continues to operate from heaven. And for those who had walked with Him for those 3 + years, that initially was a horrible loss. Even for us today, we sometimes think we would be better off with Him here physically with us.
But while Jesus is no longer physically here, He never stopped His ministry to we earthlings. He never decided – He had taught and healed and fed and rebuked and preached enough. It’s time to retire in His heavenly rocking chair. His full intention has been to continue 24/7 this kind of ministry to the peoples of the earth by creating an ever growing and expanding body of Christ – His body – on the earth with His sons and daughters. Now – – we are His body on the earth. We are His eyes, His hands, His feet, His mouth. Now instead of healing people directly with His own physical hands, He has chosen to heal people through you and me.
But for that to happen we have to click into His resources, His power, His heart attitudes and emotions, His ways, ….. and that happens in a significant way through His gifts – spiritual gifts or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Paul speaks of this in I Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” That is – He gives spiritual gifts to each one of His sons and daughters – to every child of God. Vs. 11 reinforces this reality by saying, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”
Jesus Christ is a brilliant, strategic, generous and good Giver of Gifts to those who have been placed or baptized into His body as Paul speaks of it again in I Cor. 12:13. Do you know Him as such? Do you celebrate Him as such? Do you worship Him as such?
When you look at the oppressed state of our coastal region, when you look at the oppressed condition of our state, when you look at the increasingly fragmented state of our nation – – do you ever worship and thank Jesus Christ – – that He is fully engaged therein? Fully hands on – not physically, but through His body; through the variety of at least 21 supernatural gifts that He has wisely and strategically given you and me and all of our brothers and sisters as well – – so that we can be Jesus to those who need Him. (btw – those gifts are listed in your bulletin today)
You know – in a way – God has always been a giver of supernatural power to enable His people to accomplish His work and provide divine solutions on the earth. He enabled Abraham to heal Abimilech and his clan of barrenness, and Abraham by the way was the first person in biblical history to be called and anointed by God as a prophet. He enabled Moses to do all kinds of miracles, also calling him a prophet. In fact Moses probably was the first champion of the valuable role of the prophetic. You may remember that at one point in Israel’s wanderings in the desert, two young men – not necessarily appointed by anyone – were prophesying in the camp – so says Numbers 11:27. Some zealous, though misguided young man ran to Moses complaining of this and informing him of this wrongdoing – in his eyes. Even Joshua, Moses’s attendant and disciple wanted Moses to restrain them. “But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (vs. 29) Moses by this time in his long ministry and leadership of the people of God knew how desperate the problems of the world were, and that only God’s supernatural enabling and power could do anything substantive about it. And he knew the prophetic gift enables us to see and know things we couldn’t see and know otherwise.
We could go on and talk about other ladies healed of barrenness – like Hanna. People healed of leprosy – like Naaman. We could talk about people who operated in dreams and visions and interpretation of such like Joseph and Daniel. And we could speak of the prophet Joel – – who prophesied that there would come a day when and I quote – God speaking – “I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions. Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
But what I want to say about all of this is two-fold. First, God has always worked in and through and for His people in supernatural miraculous ways. It is central to His very nature. And second, the difference today is every child of God – every man, woman, young person and child who is born again by the Spirit of God is infused with spiritual gifts – – divine enablements to be Jesus to those who need Him – especially as we work together – affirming each other’s gifts and allowing each other’s diverse giftings to sharpen and compliment our giftings. I think this is at least partly what Jesus had in mind when He said to His gathered disciples in John 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.”
Dear brothers & sisters, we’ve been given a great work to do here in our coastal region and beyond as He enables us. That work is to be Jesus’s instruments – His body parts – to continue His ministry on the earth until He returns. Specifically we at locf have a fairly clear job assignment – revealed to our leaders and core members over a period of years. In our leadership meeting yesterday morning we deliberated over that specific calling. Review of our 5 fold calling:
1. Help preserve and strengthen unity in body of Christ; 2. Be a people who pursue the fullness of the Holy Spirit & help others in that journey; 3. Be a kingdom focused/seeking church. 4. Be a righteousness pursuing church; 5. Be a revival/great awakening pursuing or posturing church. No possible way we can pull this off without daily moment by moment supernatural enabling; no possible way we can pull this off without every one of those wonderful gifts of the Spirit operating in and through every member of our congregation.
We want to re-affirm this morning that Jesus Christ – the head of the church – gave “some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Eph. 4:11-13
Our job is not to entertain you, but rather to equip you to fulfill His will and calling on your life. And you cannot know, much less fulfill His will and calling without the gifts of the Holy Spirit being operative in your life and in those He has joined you with; and in those He has placed in spiritual leadership over you.
I love you all, and I more than ever thank God for each of you. But last week’s service was rather revealing. Most of you admitted you had never heard about spiritual gifts in your early formative days in the church – whether you had grown up protestant or catholic. Most of you had no idea there were 21 specific unique gifts listed in the New Testament. Though I didn’t ask this question, I’m fairly confident a number of you are not sure what spiritual gifts you have been entrusted with. And because it is true of me, I’m fairly confident for those of you who do have a decent idea of what gifts Jesus has entrusted to you, you – like me – long to exercise them with greater power and effectiveness and fruitfulness.
Well one of the ways Jesus has given us to equip you is to lay hands on you to either receive more gifts, receive more clarity of the gifts you have been given, and more power to exercise your gifts, more faith and fear of the Lord to exercise your gifts, freedom from the fear of man that might cause you to not exercise or pursue exercising gifts, more experiential knowledge of the Holy Spirit in your life, Or maybe you are not even sure if you are born again and that you definitely are a child of God. Maybe you need healing….
This practice of God imparting things to people through the laying on of hands is first seen in Jesus’s life and ministry while on the earth; then you see His apostles doing it in the book of Acts; and then ever so often you hear of it in Paul’s epistles such I & II Timothy. Let’s look at a couple of those verses and then I want to pray. “Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery.” I Tim. 4:14 “For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” II Tim. 1:6