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About this series
The Holy Spirit
Experiencing His Power and Presence 24/7
Who is the Holy Spirit? Is He more than "The Force?" For many believers, a relationship with the Holy Spirit rarely factors into our day-to-day lives. The truth is, experiencing His power and presence unlocks spiritual living to an entirely new level. This series will help you understand how the indwelling of the Holy Spirit deepens intimacy with God. In the process, you'll experience empowered living that reveals and activates your unique spiritual gifts in ways you never imagined possible. As a follower of Jesus Christ, you have access to power and resources that can change your life forever, but depending on your background, being "filled with the Spirit" can mean all sorts of different things. But, when you sift through all the various ideas, opinions, and statements about the work of the Holy Spirit, at the end of the day, HIS top priority for your life is you living out a "spiritual life" through practical means. If you want to know deep joy, understand how to invest your life in things that bring you deep and lasting satisfaction, and experience the presence of God like never before, you must allow the Holy Spirit to dwell richly in you, to reveal your unique talents and gifts for His purposes.More from this series
The Holy Spirit does a lot of things, we learned, He indwells us, He controls us, and one of the great things He does is He gives us spiritual gifts. When you think about a gift you think about a birthday, you think about an anniversary, you think about surprising someone, you think about the perfect gift.
We give gifts, what, to whom? People we care about to celebrate major things, to remember certain things, and we think about what do I want to give someone that they could really use, that fits them perfectly, and would express our deepest love?
Isn’t that why we do it? Birthday gifts, anniversary gifts, graduation gifts, special gifts. What I want you to know is that’s so true of us humanly, but when you talk to people in the body of Christ, many regular, ordinary Christians, and you bring up the subject of spiritual gifts you usually have two extremes.
Extreme number one on the left is denial. There’s lots of people that say, “I don’t think God gives any gifts at any time anymore.” And then you have people on the other side that are dogmatic about the gifts. There’s these, or not these, or there’s all these.
And what I’ve discovered in the body of Christ is most people are somewhere in the middle because if you’ve been around people that say they don’t exist or if you be around people who say, “This is the way they exist and it’s got to be like this and this is how we see it.” I find most Christians kind of go to the middle of confusion, I’m not really sure, I don’t think I’m going to talk about that because people seem to argue a lot.
And I’ve done this a lot. But if I asked you to pull out a 3x5 card and the God who died for you, Jesus, and who rose from the dead and sent spiritual gifts to you, I will tell you, there’s probably not two people in ten that couldn’t say on a 3x5 card, “This is my primary spiritual gift, this is my ministry gift, this is how I use it, and this is how I make decisions and this is very important to me and I understand it clearly.”
You will not find that in the body of Christ. You ask people, what’s, “Well what’s your spiritual gift?” “Well, I kind of think it’s mercy and leadership and, sort of, administration. Hospitality. Playing the piano. Tacos.” And how does that really help you live your life? “I don’t know, I just took a test once.” So are you ready to learn about what spiritual gifts are all about, and how it works, and how important it is?
I’m going to suggest there’s four questions everyone needs to ask and answer about spiritual gifts. Number one is super pragmatic. Why bother? Why does it even matter that we understand spiritual gifts. I’m going to give you four reasons.
One, they’re essential for determining God’s will. There’s, people want you to do all kind of things. When you’re in your sweet spot, when you’re doing what God wants you to do doesn’t it make sense if He has an Ephesians 2:10 calling on your life, “You are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which before the foundations of the earth, He’s called you to walk in.”
Don’t you think He’s gifted and designed you to walk in that good work? So you better be doing that, not responding to all the needs everywhere. And if you don’t know what your primary spiritual gift is how will you know where to invest your time and your energy?
Second reason. They’re God’s stamp of approval on your value as a person. Spiritual gifts remind you that you got this gift because Christ died. He loves you, He’s for you. You give gifts to people you care about, He gave this gift to you, to remind you every time you use your spiritual gift, “I must matter.”
It’s like if some of you have had a grandfather give you one of those watches that opens up and every time you hold it and you’ve got that watch or some people have a little thing around your neck and you can open it up and it has a heart and it has a picture of someone or something engraved.
Or some of you for special gifts have a plaque and there’s something engraved in it. And it reminds you that whoever gave that to you says, “You matter.” And that’s when Jesus gave you a spiritual gift He wants you to know, “You matter.” He gave it to you, especially for you.
And third, when known and exercised they put you in the place of meeting needs and building deep, meaningful relationships.
See, when you know your spiritual gift it helps in decision making, it literally helps your self-esteem in the positive sense of that. And third, it really solves a lot of the loneliness problem.
There’s all kind of Christians that are very, very lonely. They don’t feel a part of anything. When you start using your spiritual gifts, you know what you’re doing? You’re meeting the needs of other people and you’re getting close to people. You get connected to people. You’re needed. You’re helping. Your focus is on what God is doing and other people and that’s the fourth one.
It produces something pretty amazing. The byproduct of exercising your spiritual gift is joy. It’s joy.
I remember learning this the hard way. Theresa and I had gone to Dallas to go to seminary. We went to a large, Bible teaching church where a lot of professors were at the seminary. They had a children’s program that was second to none, they had puppets, they had all kind of stuff. I mean, this place ran like crazy. The editor of the NIV Bible taught one class and he did that on the Psalms.
And there was another professor of Christology and he taught a class. I mean, it was like going to a conference every week. It was unbelievable. I mean, you didn’t even have to pay to go to these classes. It was just church.
And I remember, we came from West Virginia where a mega church is two hundred people. I mean, mega, mega church is two hundred people. Maybe three hundred. I mean, it’s huge. There were only a million people in the whole state.
And so here’s this church of two or three thousand people or whatever and Sunday school class is bigger than any church we’ve ever been in, these professors, and the Hebrew word for this and the Greek words for that. And it was like we went week number one, week number two, week number three. It was like, “Can you believe this?” I mean, it was like we were getting drunk on God’s Word.
And then we got into about week six or week seven and we had this interesting experience. I’ll never forget it. We get into the front of the church, ready to open the doors, and I turned to Theresa and I said, “Do you feel like going to church today?” She said, “No.” I said, “I don’t either.” I said, “You want to go to Wendy’s?” “Yeah, okay.”
So, we’d already dropped off our kids. This doesn’t sound so spiritual does it? But we did. So we go to Wendy’s. And it was right next to the church and we sat down and I said, “Man, I don’t know what it is but this is all great, great, great, great. But something’s wrong. Something is really wrong.”
And as we sat down and jotted a few things on a napkin it was like, you know, where I came from is I had a Bible study every Tuesday morning with a group of guys, and I was teaching every Thursday night to a group of college students. And this is why I came to seminary. And Theresa was meeting with a group of girls.
And what we realized is we were getting, getting, getting, getting and we weren’t using. We weren’t using our spiritual gifts. And you know what? The joy factor, we weren’t growing. We were getting smarter, man, I knew more Greek words and Hebrew words and the Psalm and a lament, man, there was stuff I learned to pronounce things like, “pneumatology” and “eschatology” and something-ology.
You know? I was learning all kind of stuff. But I was shriveling up. And I remember I set an appointment, you know, it was a very large church, and it was my first experience with a large church.
So I get an appointment with the pastor. I got on his calendar so three months later I got to meet with him. And so I thought, you know, I got one shot and I’m pretty organized guy when it comes to this kind of stuff. So, I wrote down on a 3x5 card, “I’ve done this, I live this kind of ministry, I think my primary spiritual gift is this, I’m open to doing whatever anywhere in the church. I just want to serve. Just put me in the game, kind of thing. And here’s a little bit of background, and here’s a couple names of, get a reference because I know it’s a large church, you don’t want some wacko.”
And so we sat down for lunch and his name was Don Geiger. I said, “Hi, Don, how you doing?” I said, “Oh excuse me, I got a card for you and would you just look this over before we eat?” And I gave it to him and then I faked like I had to go to the bathroom.
So, I just went to the bathroom and washed my hands and I thought, “I think he’s got the card read by now.” And then I walked back and I sit down. And I said, “So, Don, what do you think?” He said, “It sounds like you want to get to work, don’t you?” I said, “Don, I know I got a full schedule in seminary. I’m dying. I’m shriveling up. You just, you tell me where you need anybody in this church and my wife and I are in. We need to use our gifts.”
And two weeks later we were teaching a sophomore class, high school class, and a few months later we were leading a college ministry and our whole life changed. The joy factor went up, kids are in our living room again.
Why bother with spiritual gifts? Well, decision making, loneliness, joy – heck – if that’s all that I gave you that would be enough.
Second question you need to ask about spiritual gifts is not just “why bother” but what is a spiritual gift? Let’s get on the same page. Because as wonderful as playing the saxophone, or the piano, or cooking a great dinner, those are talents. Those are not spiritual gifts.
So what is a spiritual gift? Definition: A divine enablement of special ability upon every member of the body of Christ, which fits them for specific and corresponding service. Now, if you will, open your Bibles, 1 Corinthians chapter 12. As I read it I want you to circle three words: Gifts, service, and workings, depending on your translation.
Let’s pick it up at verse 4. The question in the Corinthian church is who is spiritually mature and about spirituality and maturity. A lot of groups think, in this particular church, that certain gifts make you really mature and so Paul is explaining about spiritual gifts.
And so in verse 4 he says, “There are different kinds of gifts but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service or ministry but the same Lord. There are different kinds of workings or manifestations but the same God who works all of them together.”
There’s only two or three doctrines in all of Scripture that when they are described the whole Trinity comes together: The Great Commission, redemption. And he says here, “There are gifts, services, and workings.” Then notice, “The Spirit, the Lord Jesus, God who works all of them in all men.”
You need to understand God has given you a gift. I believe a primary or motivational gift and when you exercise that I think He will give you ministry gifts and then as you function in that way the Spirit of God will cause manifestations of growth to help other people see God for who He is, and love them, and inspire them, and encourage them, and heal them, and comfort them.
A gift, the word is “charismata.” It simply means, used exclusively in the New Testament for a gift, it’s not a natural talent. Its root word is “charis,” which is the “grace” that’s used one hundred and fifty times in the New Testament. And the idea is beauty, or favor in action. That’s what a gift is. It’s beauty, or favor in action.
The prefix, spiritual, or pneumaticos, just has the idea of what kind of a gift, it’s from the source, in the Spirit of God. So God gives something that’s for beauty in action.
It provides ability. When you have a spiritual gift you have a supernatural enabling from God. It may align with your natural gifts, it may not. One of the greatest evangelists I ever knew was a man named John Saville. He was the shyest human being I’ve ever met.
But when he, he came to Christ late in life and I watched John in an elevator, the elevator, now it was a really long elevator. You know, like, fifty stories. And I was going to lunch with John and John had come to Christ in his sixties after going bankrupt two or three times and having some really hard times in his life. And he was just, he just loved lost people.
And I remember being in that elevator and I was going to lunch with John and we’re there and it’s Dallas. Business suits, pinstripes, the whole bit, and there’s three very official people behind us and I’m here and John’s there and there’s a nice lady in a business suit and John turns to her and says, “Excuse me?” She says, “Yes?” “Has anyone ever told you how much Jesus loves you?”
And I’m going, “John…John…” I’m his pastor. He’s chairman of the board. I’m thinking, “John, this is, you don’t know, this is uncool. This is not how you do it. There’s three guys in suits. Look, Jesus? Come on.”
And she said, “No.” He said, “Well would you like me to tell you?” And her eyes get watery and she starts to – this is an elevator. This is a twenty second deal. Eyes get watery, tears start to come down. John pulls out a tract. He leans over, he reads the first part of the tract, he folds it, puts it in her hand, he goes, “I own Saville, Dodgen and Company. Tell you what, you come up and give this to my receptionist. I’d just love to tell you about Jesus.”
And she took that thing and held it, doors open, she gets out. I’m thinking, “How does that work?” This is the shyest guy I know. You know why? A spiritual gift is a supernatural enabling. God does something in you and through you that isn’t just, like, super-sizing what you are. It’s supernatural.
It is the ability, it’s the qualification. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe Bible training is important, seminary training is important. But I think we’ve gotten to the day where we’re more worried about accreditation than real qualification.
I’ll tell you, you know what? D.L. Moody was a shoe salesman with a very limited education. He did okay.
When I had the privilege of pastoring at Santa Cruz, twelve and a half years, I remember at one point in time we had about ninety people on staff. We grew from several hundred to a lot of people. And we had about ninety some people on staff.
And I looked one time, and I realized we had, like, thirty-five people in seminary. But all, because our staff came out of our church. I think I only hired two or three people on the outside, you know, like counseling and special qualifications. Why? Because they proved that they could do the ministry. They had our heart, they had our DNA, they were producing spiritual fruit.
Then what they realized was, “I need some training.” So I’m not against training but I want you to know, we’ve gotten in the day where people think that, “Well, I haven’t been to Bible school so I guess I can’t teach that class, or I can’t do that, or I’m not qualified.” Here’s what makes you qualified: Loving Jesus, being gifted, get in the Word, step out.
All through Scripture it’s like these people you would never think God would use. That’s who we are. God has given you power. But if you don’t know what your gift is you don’t even know where to plug in. So it gives ability, qualification. It gives strength, it gives energy, it gives endurance. When you’re in your giftedness there is joy.
Finally, it’s about responsibility. Ability, qualification, strength. A gift is just like your time. It’s just like your money. You’re a steward of it. God has deposited in you a supernatural ability to help people in ways where miraculous things can happen.
Now think of this: He died, He rose from the dead, He gave you this gift. How sad it would be if you don’t know what it is. What would it be like, like your six year old’s birthday. And he wanted a bike, he wanted the bike, he wanted the bike, he wanted the bike, oh, “Could I have a bike?”
And you get this big box and you put it in and so he can’t tell what it is and there’s a big ribbon. And then you stick it right in the center of the garage and then you give him the garage door opener. “It’s your birthday!” And he presses it, and it opens, and there’s the big box. And then he goes, “Well, I think I’m going to go play with my friends.” “Well, what about the box?” “Well, I’ll do that later.” “But what about the box?”
Well, how would you feel as a parent? “Open the box! That’s a two hundred dollar bike, kid! You’ve been dreaming about that! You were made to ride that bike! Open the box!” That’s how God feels. Some of us have never opened the box. You don’t know what it is. You don’t know how to use it. You never got on it and ridden it.
And so there’s a joy factor and there’s a lot of Christians that are very frustrated and really burned out. And part of that is if you don’t open the box because you’re good, sincere people and want to be nice and helpful and it’s really hard to say no you’re on this committee, on this committee, you help out here, you do this, you do that, you do this, you do that. And you do that for a few years and then you get really burned out and then a lot of you, you used to do all that and then right now you don’t do anything.
Correct? You don’t do anything. It’s like, “I’ve spiritually retired. I’m going to let those younger people carry the ball from here on out.”
Where did you get that? In a John Wayne movie or something? This life you have and this spiritual gift deposited, is until the day you die. And God often will use it in the latter part of your life more than in the earlier part because you actually now have some life experience and wisdom to go with the gift.
But if you don’t know what it is, you don’t know how to cultivate it, then you miss. So there’s a stewardship. The stewardship of your spiritual gift is just like your money, your time, or anything else.