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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
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. So, that’s what a spiritual gift is.
Third question is how and why do we receive spiritual gifts? In your Bibles, flip over, as you will, to Ephesians chapter 4. I want to show you a very, very important New Testament picture that I think when I was saying, “Open the box,” you’ll realize why.
First, they are distributed by the ascended Christ. Book of Ephesians: Chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3 – doctrine, clarity. This is who you are in Christ, every spiritual blessing.
Chapter 4 opens up. It’s the tilt. It moves from doctrine to practice. “Therefore just as you’ve received the Lord now so walk in Him.” And the word there, he’s going to talk, “Work out your salvation,” he’s going to talk about in Philippians 2. And here he says, the word is, there’s a word for “access” here. He says, “I want your beliefs to turn into your behavior. Walk in a manner worthy.” That’s that word. “In a manner worthy of the Lord.”
And if you look at the first three or four verses it talks about some attitudes that you need to have to do that with all forbearance, and gentleness, and humility, and then he’ll talk about the doctrinal clarity that you have. “There’s one faith, one Lord, one baptism.”
And then beginning in verse 7 he’s going to talk about the risen Lord and where spiritual gifts come from.
Picking it up at verse 7 he says, “But each one of us grace has been given as Christ appointed it. That’s why it said: ‘When He ascended on high He led captive in His train, and gives gifts to men. What does, ‘He ascended’ mean accept that He also descended to the lower earthly regions. He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens in order to fill the whole universe. It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers.”
You might, in your notes, just jot down in the corner, Psalm 68. He’s quoting Psalm 68. Psalm 68 is a psalm of victory in the ancient Near East and here’s how it would happen is this army, say Israel’s army would go over and they would take care of that army and they would then take all those people and often in this history someone would ride in on a white horse, literally a white horse, and behind him would be all of his army.
And then behind them, this is a little graphic, but they would either be stripped to the waist or stripped naked all the people that you’ve captured to show. They’re humiliated and you’re going to march them through your hometown.
And behind them would be cows and donkeys and all the spoils, and all the, whether it’s silver and gold.
And so the champion or victor would come in, the army would come behind him, the humiliation, the defeated foe, and they would take the spoils and give gifts to the people.
And so if you got a cow it would remind you, “Our army beat the Assyrians,” or “Our army beat the Babylonians,” or “Our army beat the Philistines.” And He takes that imagery and He says, “Christ came and He defeated sin and death and Satan, and He led a host and when He defeated those things one of the implications that reminds you that you have this supernatural gift by the ascended Christ who has overcome death, overcome the power and the penalty of sin, and Satan himself is your spiritual gift. And that gift is the marker to say to you, “It’s finished.”
So, I’m thinking it might be pretty important to Jesus, these gifts. Not just, “Oh well, you know, some are really big on gifts and other people aren’t. I don’t think it really matters that much. It does to Him.”
Notice, second, gifts are distributed to every believer without exception, at the time of salvation, on the basis of grace. 1 Peter 4:10, he says, “Each one of you should use whatever gift he’s received to serve others faithfully, administering God’s grace in its various forms.”
And so it’s just given to every believer. You have a gift. At least one. Probably more than one.
Third, gifts are distributed for the profit of others. 1 Corinthians 12:7, “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” Gifts are not about, “What is mine,” and spiritual naval gazing. “I wonder what it is? Could it be this? Could it be that? I’ve taken three tests. I think it might be a little bit more of this, little bit more of that.”
Gifts are primarily about you having an enabling from the risen Christ to build His Church, to love people, to help them grow, to help them develop. And for some of you it’s building and others it’s repairing. For others it’s leading, for others it’s doing things behind the scenes. Others it’s mercy, others it’s generosity. For others it’s leadership. For some it’s the ability to teach God’s Word.
And then the application: For some, you’re gifted and you have passions to teach God’s Word to one-year-olds, and other five-year-olds, and other seven-year-olds, and other junior high, other high school.
For others you have this gift and you long to explain things to people that are lost and you could do it in an apologetic manner. For others, you know what? You want to do some things behind the scenes of the service. You can’t understand just the joy that you get in making things operate and work well.
And whether it’s repairing a bus, or setting up a room, or doing things and you do it to the glory of God and as we learned earlier, there is no difference in God’s economy, importance or value, than the person who is up front speaking, or preaching, or teaching and the people who are doing everything behind the scenes.
That’s going to be his whole point, isn’t it, later? “Can an eye say to the ear, ‘I don’t need you.’ Or the foot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you.’” We’re a team. We’re a body. And there’s only one head.
And so they’re given for the profit of others. And third, gifts are distributed sovereignly by the Holy Spirit in accordance with each believer’s best interest and God’s ultimate glory and purpose.
Same chapter, 1 Corinthians 12, skipping down to verse 11. “And these are all the work of one and the same Spirit and He gives them to each one just as He determines,” you might underline the word “determines” or “wills.” The word is “boulomai.”
There’s a couple different words in the New Testament for God willing, or choosing, or determining something. This is one, this word means “to will or determine something after careful consideration and thought.”
I’d like you to think just for a second. What if this is true? What if an all-knowing, all-powerful, sovereign God of history and time in the universe, has you living in this season of history right now, and what if He has a purpose, one that’s not completely clear to you but there’s not only a purpose for His Church, in general, but for you individually?
What if there’s something that, you know what? See, God looks at it different, you don’t have to be famous, you don’t have to write a book, you don’t have to get up in front of anyone. But when you fulfill the purpose that He made you for, you, like a strategic piece in the divine puzzle, do something that makes the body become all God wants it to be.
And what if when you do that, in ways that you can’t understand, it has impact on people that’s not just positive but it’s exponential, and you can’t quite understand it, and there’s something that happens in you as you do it, where it produces this joy.
So instead of this, “Oh well, I feel guilty and it’s kind of a duty and I know they need a lot of help and no one else will do it so I guess I will,” which is how a lot of Christians serve, there would be this sense of, “God, I want to do what You made me to do. I want to discern what is it that You sovereignly deposited inside of me to fulfill what only I can do to help people in ways that, it may not even align with my natural talents, or it might align with them a lot. But I want to know what that is.”
See, the Bible is really clear. Earnestly desire, the Scripture says, earnestly desire spiritual gifts. And then he’ll go on in that chapter 12 and 14 to say – what? Shoot for the ones that help the other people the most as you’re searching and praying and discerning.
And although that, you know, like with your kids? All the natural talents your kids ever get, they’ve got them when they’re born, right? But they have to be developed. They have to be cultivated. That’s why when you’re kids are coming up, you give them a shove sort of in the music area, and a little bit in the athletic area, and maybe a little bit over here, and a little bit over there, and you just…
And all of a sudden, bang! Woo! I didn’t know that was in there. But everything that they ever have that they need, it’s already inside of them. And as they explore and cultivate and they develop and then they like certain things and they’re good at certain things.
It’s the same of you. If it’s untapped, if you don’t know what it is, if it’s not cultivated then you’re probably not getting to experience what God wants for you. But there’s something more tragic.
There’s probably people in your network that He has you, and you’re the answer to their prayer, but since you don’t know your gift or you’re not exercising it, some of their prayers aren’t getting answered in the way He’d like.
Because did you ever notice that sometimes God intervenes absolutely in these just humongous, amazing, supernatural ways, right? Tchoo! Whooo! But by and large, God answers your prayer in the form of a gifted person. He brings someone into your life that has wisdom, He brings someone into your life with a gift of giving, He brings someone in your life with comfort.
Most of your prayers get answered by a gifted person showing up with a servant’s heart and a willingness and a prompting from God to be Jesus to you in some way. And they help you get through a rough part in your marriage, or they help you have some wisdom to get your business back on track, or they help you deal with one of your kids, or deal with what it’s like to be lonely or some difficult issue in your life.
Or they, like me, I was thinking about, as I was trying to figure out how to tell my little story in about four minutes, and I was thinking of all the people that God has brought in my life. When they first came and said, “Would you like,” someone came to our church and said, “We think this would be good on the radio,” I said, “No,” because I was afraid that someday I would mess up and do something really stupid and embarrass God, and so I didn’t want to do that because some people that I really respected became “a little bit more well-known” and then they did some really immoral things and it so discouraged me I was just, out of fear, I didn’t want to do that.
And I remember God putting His arm around me and saying, “Well, God’s going to use someone. I don’t think being afraid is really a big motivation I find in Scripture. I think you need to take a step of faith.”
And I didn’t know how to organize it. Everything I’ve ever done in my life I can look back and see there was individuals with wisdom, counsel. I had never written a book. And I was asked to write a book, and I was working on the very first one and we were at this conference, and it was a conference that had Ron Blue and Associates. And it’s a financial group, financial planning.
And he said, “You should come up with a wise financial plan, in case something good happens in these books.” He says, “Because, you know, there’s only three things that mess up all of us but especially you preachers and, right? You know, lust of the flesh, sex. Money. Or pride.”
So he said, “You need to make advance decisions on all those things.” He goes, “I’ll pay for the first year.” I said, “I don’t need a financial plan, I don’t have any money.” He said, “Believe me, just, you know…”
So, we made a financial plan and then made a commitment in advance of what we would do with the money before we ever made any of it.
See, a gifted person, he just came into my life at a window of time. And see, you are that person to someone else. Or God wants you to be that person to someone else.
So, with that let’s answer the last question. And the last question is: How do I discover my spiritual gift? Pray seriously and seek God’s guidance, and this isn’t one of those, “Oh, God, please.” I mean, pray seriously.
Have you ever fasted for a day and said, “God, would You make specifically clear what my spiritual gift is? Or for the next thirty days, every day, I will pray and ask You to make that clear.”
Second, study the gift passages in God’s Word. There’s a lot of tools, and a lot of good ways but they’re not real… Romans 12, right? 1 Corinthians 12 and 14, 1 Peter 4, and Ephesians 4. Those are all the gift passages. Study them. Say, “God, I’m going to study these.”
Third, test the waters. Get involved where you think you might be interested and just jump in. We used to have a rule where you could try anything for six weeks. Just jump in and say, “I’d like to help out with this or I’d like to try this and I’m not sure it’s God’s will but I want you to know I’m going to give it six or eight weeks and at the end of that time I may step back and say, I know you have needs, I’m not going to feel guilty, this isn’t the right place for me.”
But a lot of times you think you’re going to be stuck in something forever so you never try. Test the waters.
Four, examine the fulfillment factor. I mean, when you’re doing what God made you to do, I will tell you, there’s something that will come back that you’ll say, “Wow, I’d love to do this. This is exciting.”
And then, evaluate honestly. Ask yourself, “What am I really good at? What am I really good at? Where do I see God show up that it kind of surprises me? There’s a lot of false humility running around the Church. “Well, I’m not really...I’m not really very good in that… And uh…”
And sometimes there’s a lot of just not false humility there’s a false arrogance as well. And so not only do you evaluate honestly, but get quality counsel. I mean, take some steps, and take someone who will actually be honest with you, and ask them.
And there’s people who will come, “Oh I’m called by God to teach!” Or, “I’m called to sing in the church. Woo-hoo-hoo-hoo!” And you just go, “Oh my lands.”
So, you’re good at something but get some people around you who will tell you what you’re good at and what you’re not good at. And listen to them.
And then finally here, recognize God’s evident blessing. Where’s the fruit? Where’s God using you? Where are lives changing? What happens that you can’t explain when you teach, or give, or lead, or show mercy, or counsel, or exhort, or preach, or organize, or serve behind the scenes?