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Warning: Beware of Spiritual Gift Abuse!, Part 2

From the series Your Divine Design

Spiritual gift abuse. You need to know what it is, you need to know how to spot it, and you need to know how to confront it. Chip wraps up this series by unpacking some specific how-tos.

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Message Transcript

Beware of any extreme position on spiritual gifts, i.e., they do not exist at all, to, a Spirit-filled Christian will have all the gifts. I've heard both. I've been in places where gifts don't exist. “I tell you what, you find gifts, you find disunity and division, and people are arguing about them. There aren't any gifts. All the gifts are gone after the first century.” I've heard people teach that.

And on the other hand, I've heard, “If you're Spirit-filled, I mean, if you're really Spirit-filled” – whatever Spirit-filled means. No one really knows. I think the Bible has a pretty good definition, but depending on what group, what background, that could mean you've been to Mars and back, or it could mean that you're really walking with the Lord in the Spirit. I don't know. But, “If you're Spirit-filled, you'll have all the gifts.” And then, usually, they have someone in the church who's an example of it: “Brother Bob, he's got all the gifts. Go, Bob! Go!” “I can prophesy; I can teach.” You know what I mean? He can do it all.

Any time you feel those extremes – notice what it says in 1 Corinthians 12, verse 1: “Now about spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.” You need to have an understanding.

Everyone has one primary gift. We know that He will give you ministry gifts. We understand they're for the common good. When you know those ten basic principles, it guards against this kind of thing.

Number seven – warning light: Beware of using spiritual gifts and the energy of the flesh to fulfill personal ego needs or impress other people. This is another one that I don't think you grow out of. Beware. Beware. Be on your guard. Watch over your heart with all diligence. When you have a spiritual gift, you can take a gift – it’s like a tool. God doesn't take away the tool. You can be in the flesh. God will honor His Word, and He will honor the tool, or the gift, that He's placed in your hand. But I can use my gift, and you can use your gift, not in submission to the Spirit, but in the energy of the flesh, and it produces not good things.

And, boy, I think this is one of those really gut-check times, where you have to ask, and I have to ask, Is this about me using my gift to get attention, affirmation, strokes from people? Is this about impressing people?

And I think we all struggle with that. Any time you have to do something, and you find yourself – ego needs, then I think that's a warning light, and you need to say, “Wait a second, here.”

Notice what it says in 1 Corinthians 13. Sandwiched between chapter 12, “This is how to use the gifts.” And then, chapter 14, “Eagerly desire spiritual gifts.” 12 says, don't be ignorant about them. 14 says, really desire and focus. Right in between is 1 Corinthians 13, and it says, “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels” – there's the spiritual gift – “but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophesy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have faith so that I can move mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all my possessions to the poor, and surrender my body to the flames” – literally, be a martyr – “but have not love, I gain nothing.” “I have nothing.” “I gain nothing.”

If I have this gift of tongues, if I have this gift of prophesy, if I have this gift of faith, if I have this gift of martyrdom and be willing, but you can do – what's that passage say? You can do all those things, and I can do all those things, not about love, which is – what? Focusing on other people, giving other people what they need the most, when they deserve it the least, as your gift to God. I can do my gifts that way, or it can really be a subtle way to set Chip Ingram up, to get Chip Ingram the strokes, and the ego needs, and the unresolved issues in his life taken care of. And so, it's a warning light. Be on your guard. Beware.

Number eight: Beware of confusing spiritual gifts with spiritual fruit as the evidence of spiritual growth and maturity. In some circles, the development and impact in the use of your gifts becomes a test for spiritual maturity. But gifts, remember, are a means, not an end. In other words, when you have these gifts, when God is using you, God's using you, God's using you – “My lands, God's using you!” – that's wonderful; that's great. God is using you. In some circles, what that becomes – that's the goal: God using you. God using you.

I've got news for you: That is not the goal. Gifts are – what? They're a paintbrush. They're a means. The goal is that you are becoming more and more like Christ. Spiritual fruit is about spiritual maturity, Christlikeness. Spiritual gifts are about the means God uses in your life to help others become more like Christ.

Let's look at a couple passages. Ephesians 4:13: “…until we all reach to the unity and the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” The goal is maturity.

Or notice Galatians 5:22 and 23: “But the fruit of the Spirit” – in other words, what is it that God's after? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

In fact, Jesus – John 15. You might just jot it, John 15:8. “By this is my Father glorified, that you have many gifts and are very impressive.” Oh, I think I misquoted that. “By this is my Father glorified” – what? – “that you bear much fruit.” Well, what is “fruit”? “Fruit” is always twofold.

Number one, it's the life of Christ reproduced in your life. The goal of gifts is not that, “You're great. You're used. It's developed. We're impressed.” The goal of the gifts is that, because of how you are living, you are becoming more and more like Jesus, and God is using you for the right reason, in the right ways, with the right motives, to exercise His supernatural ability, in the sphere He's called you to, as an intricate, interdependent part of the body. And as you do that, with an attitude of love and dependency, there are people whose lives, little by little by little, become more and more like Jesus.

And they rub up next to you, and they start loving their mate in a different way. And they rub up next to you, and, pretty soon, they rearrange their priorities, and how they spend their money, because of your gift of exhortation and leadership. And because they rub up next to you, they begin to say “no” to certain things.

And they realize that, You know something? I need to deal with some issues in my home. And I need to have a plan for my kids. And I need to deal with some of the wounds of my past. And because of times of sharing their heart, and your wisdom and discernment and exhortation, pretty soon, they become more and more and more whole.

And then, a different person shows up to the singles group. A different person shows up to work. A different person shows up. See, it's fruit. Any time there's an emphasis on the gifts, as an end in themselves, a little, red, warning light should go off.

Warning number nine: Beware that apparent manifestations of the Spirit can be counterfeited by human schemes, and demonic forces. Beware. This is a big one. This happens not only overseas, but this happens here.

Beware. Any time something is supernatural – “That's amazing!” “I was at this meeting! You can't believe it! I checked, they didn't have an earphone! And he didn't know this, and he didn't know that, and this person they never met, and then they said that, and this lady said, ‘Well, that's really true! And I can't believe it! How could you know that?’ Chip, you can't believe it! This was an amazing meeting! And da-da-da.”

Okay. You went to an amazing meeting. God may be choosing to do miraculous things. There may be manifestations of the Spirit of God in doing things that are very unusual, and we go, “Wow! Wow! Wow!” Or it could be that something supernatural, or perceived as supernatural, is happening, and there's a group of people that are being deceived. Don't necessarily assume, because there are “manifestations of the Spirit,” or apparent miracles, or even real miracles, as far as you can tell, that it is always, necessarily a work of God.

Listen to the very words of Jesus. If you have your Bible, turn to Matthew chapter 7. Matthew chapter 7 – this is toward the end of His greatest sermon, and He gives this warning. Verse 22: “Many of you will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord.’”

Now, notice the gifts: “Did we not prophesy in Your name?” There's a spiritual gift. “And in Your name drive out demons?” You probably have some gifts going there. “And perform many miracles?” And He goes, “Yeah.” “Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from Me, you evildoers.’ Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house upon the rock.”

And I just would say, just because something is supernatural, or perceived as supernatural – we're told to – what? Test the spirits. Examine the fruit. Examine the character. Examine the lifestyle. Examine what the group, what the person, what happens afterwards. Examine – okay –there are these manifestations. It sure was exciting. It's sure perceived, by me, that it was supernatural. I think God is really in this. Okay. Now, is it biblical? Are the goals biblical? Do the people have character?

And if so, you say, “Wow, I think I just got in on a manifestation of God working in a supernatural way that is highly unusual. And thank You, Lord.”

But if you find out that a great percentage of the income is going to the leader, if you find out that there is immorality behind the scenes, if you find out that people are being manipulated, and the orphanage that they're supporting actually is pictures that are shot in Southern California, right across the border, then what you say to yourself, You know what? I don't understand how those things happened in that room, and they sure seem supernatural, but this is not a ministry from God.

And by the way, it's not new. The apostle Paul – 2 Corinthians – you might jot this down – 11, and verses 13 through 15 – in his day. He said, “Everything that appears supernatural, don't buy into thinking it's necessarily from God.” He talks about false prophets in 2 Corinthians 11. He says, “For such men are false prophets, deceitful workers masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. Is it not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness, their end will be what their actions deserve?” And what's he's saying is, there are some times where, guess what. Supernatural, apparent manifestations need to be tested. What does 1 John say? “Test the spirits.” Examine them. Is it true, is it not?

The final warning here is, beware of viewing the discovery, development, and deployment of your spiritual gift as either an optional exercise, or interesting but not serious responsibility. Now, I've given you two passages: Ephesians 4:7, and 2 Corinthians 5:9 and 10.

In Ephesians 4:7 to 10 is a very interesting passage about the work of Christ. And it talks about Him dying, going to the lower parts of the earth, and proclaiming victory over sin, victory over Satan, and victory over death. And the evidence of that victory proclaimed is, “…and He gave gifts to men.”

That's the positive reason. The negative reason is in 2 Corinthians 5, verses 9 and 10. And the apostle Paul says, “So we make it our goal to please Him” – Christ – “whether we are at home in the body or away from it. For we all must appear before the Judgment Seat of Christ” – the Bema Seat – “that each one may receive what is due him for things done in the body, whether good or bad.”

And the Bema Seat, or the Judgment Seat of Christ, is not about a person’s judgment of heaven or hell. That's accomplished at the cross. The moment I receive Jesus as my Savior, my sins are forgiven; my sins are judged. I now get the imputed righteousness of Christ. I have a brand-new relationship with Him. And then, I live out, as a steward, out of gratitude, all that He's done for me, as a believer then I will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ for my works done as a believer. And I will either have rewards, or loss, either gold, silver, previous stones, or wood, hay, stubble – 1 Corinthians 3.

Now, what's your action plan? Okay? We have spent some great time together. And if it's a sober – what's your action plan? Is this going to be where, Okay, we've gone through the session. Wow. I now understand a little bit more about spiritual gifts. I've thought about it, and…What's going to take you from where you are right here, to – if you haven't discovered it, you discovered it. If you pretty well discovered it, you start developing. If you're starting to develop it, you really deploy it. If you've already discovered it, developed it, how are you going to deploy it to the max in the body of Christ?

Can I give you a very quick action plan that I think summarizes: this is how to go about it? Number one – get your pen out; you'll need it. Because I want you to fill these in. Your spiritual gift action plan.

One – write the word: commit to discover, develop, and deploy your spiritual gift in the local body. And when I say “commit,” what I mean is, “God, before You” – this is lordship. I want you to bow your head, and just like – remember the day, some of you that got married, or some of you that signed on and made a commitment, tell God, “Lord, I'm afraid. I don't know. I'm not sure. But I'm telling You, if You'll show me my gift, so help me, I'll do whatever it takes to learn it.” Make a commitment. And then, I'll talk to you about what that commitment's going to look like.

Second, pray seriously, seeking divine guidance. Don't you think God wants to show you? Didn't Jesus say, “Ask, seek, knock”? Doesn't He want to open and – this isn't like, Okay, let's try and make it as hard as possible. Let's move this gift around. The Lord loves you! He died; He gave you a gift. Pray. But if you pray one day, and then you pray next month, you must not really want it. Put it on your list. Write it on a card. “Lord, I'm asking today. You said ‘seek,’ I'm seeking. You said ‘ask,’ I'm asking. You said ‘knock,’ I'm knocking. Will You show me? Make it real.

And you can just do it like this, gradually; you can have it just – bang! I don't care. But I am going to seek Your face. I made a commitment. So, I'm going to pray, every day, that You help me discover, deploy, and develop my gift.”

Third is, study the gift passages in God's Word. And the corresponding handouts, I think, will help you. This isn't just some mystical thing. Get your nose in the Word. I wonder, I’m not sure that Ingram guy, on this one gift. Get out a commentary. Dig in and say, “What are these gifts? How do they really work?” It's not what I think. It's not what your pastor thinks. I hope we can help you, but you get your nose in the Scripture and say, “I want to discover what Your Word says about gifts. I've narrowed it down to here.” And as you get into the Scriptures, God's going to reveal it to you.

Number four, get quality counsel. Quality counsel. Find people who really know you, people who are spiritually mature, and people who will tell you the truth. And, by the way, that's a rare combination. Really. Find people who really know you, love you enough to hurt your feelings: “Look, no. You do not have the gift of mercy, okay?” “What do you mean I don't have the gift of mercy?” “Trust me on this. You don't have the gift of mercy.” They know you, they’re mature, and they'll tell you the truth.

Number five, test the waters. And I just put for six or eight weeks. Maybe it's better for three or four months.

Man, you've got to jump. And just go to some ministry in your local church that you think you might be gifted for, and just say, “I'd like to sign up for three months.” And write it out. At the end of three months I'm done. I'll re-negotiate and re-sign-up – so you don't get on, “Yes, I'd like to discover the gift of teaching the third-grade class,” and eleven years later someone comes back and says, “So, you think you got it, or not?” Right? We all been there?

And then we have a little meeting to say, “Is it a fit, or not a fit?” And if it's not, you step back, and you know what? No guilt, no manipulation – “Well, who's going to teach the third graders if you leave?” And the answer is, “Someone with the gift of teaching. I don't have it.” Okay? Test the waters.

Number six: Examine the fulfillment factor. This is not the easy factor. When you're in your gifts – remember the old Chariots of Fire movie? Remember the guy who was really fast, and he ended up being a missionary? And I love that line in the movie – you know, bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum-bum – if you haven't seen that movie, go rent it – bum-bum-bum-bum-bum. And he goes, “I feel God's pleasure when I run.” What do you do in the body of Christ where you feel God's pleasure? Not just it's fun, but you feel God's pleasure?

And the final one here is, recognize God's evident blessing. When you are in your gifts, it doesn't mean that things are going to change overnight. But God will use your life.

You are His workmanship. He has wonderful works for you to walk in. And those works are going to be highly determined by the supernatural endowments given to you by Jesus.