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About this series
Your Divine Design
How to Discover, Develop, and Deploy Your Spiritual Gifts
Do you know how God has uniquely wired you? Every believer was created to play a strategic role in the body of Christ, with the gifts God has given them. But many of today's Christians face one difficult question: How do I discover my spiritual gifts and then use them effectively in my church? This series will unpack key passages from Romans, Ephesians, and 1 Corinthians to explore the role of spiritual gifts in the believer's life, while helping you to pinpoint your own. With biblical insight and practical steps, you'll learn how to discover, develop, and deploy your spiritual gifts so you can live a life of greater impact.More from this series
There is a special place where God does spiritual makeovers, but it is not a magic closet; it is a house. It is a special house. It is a holy temple. It is a supernatural community.
And you know what we call this house today? The house where God does extreme makeovers is called “the Church.”
Now, don’t get in your mind, Oh, the church building? Don’t think, in your mind, institutional religion. I’m talking about the living, breathing, called-out people of God who are living in community, who are walking authentically, who are living out significant purity, doing life together in the power of the Spirit, based on the Word of God, in that supernatural community. That is where extreme makeovers happen. That’s how God works.
That’s why the local church is the hope of the world. The dysfunctional part of all that is that so many local churches aren’t operating in a way God wants us to. And so, we don’t see the extreme makeover happen in people’s lives.
Then, skip down to chapter 3, and he’s going to give us the purpose. Why is He going to use this thing called “the Church”? What’s his intent? Verse 10, chapter 3: “His intent” – he’s been talking about the Church – “was that now, through the Church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.”
Did you get that? His intent was now, through the Church, to express or demonstrate “the manifold wisdom of God,” so that angels, and principalities, and powers, and created things, and men, and women, and saved people, and lost people, and all the things of all the universe would step back and see this thing called “the Church,” and what they would really see is, “Oh my.”
These people were like this – Jim, drug addict. They came into a personal relationship with Christ; the Spirit entered their life. They became truth followers. They got involved in community. They learned from one another. And the Spirit of God produced the life of Christ in this thing called “the Church.”
And now, here, Jim steps out, and reaches out to sex addicts, and drug addicts, and alcoholics. And he is used by God to rescue and restore. And another extreme makeover happens, and they’re sent out. And the angels and the principalities, they watch the process and they go, “Whoa! God is great!”
What does it say? His intent is – what? To demonstrate His manifold wisdom. What is the wisdom of God? Wisdom is skill.
Wisdom is – when those plastic surgeons did all that stuff to that lady, I was pretty impressed with their skill. I don’t think it’s a very good thing to do, to just take someone and put knives on them all over the place. I think there are some big issues there. But I’ve got to tell you, I was pretty impressed with how they did it. And you know, all those carpenters, and all those designers, that took that shabby house and made it an amazing house – I was very impressed with their skill.
You know what God wants, the purpose being extreme makeovers? He wants humans, and angels, and principalities, and people, forever and ever and ever and ever, to see who He really is, and be in awe of His wisdom. Their jaws should drop, the same way the girl’s jaw dropped when her mom came down those steps, and she was so beautiful. “Mom? Is that you?”
God wants the principalities, and the powers, and the people of all times and all eons to go, “God, that is You. I thought so small. You’re so much bigger. You’re so much more wonderful. You’re so much more powerful. You’re so much more faithful. You’re so much more loving! You’re so much more kind! You are so much more gracious than I ever dreamed. How do I know? Because I see what You do in Your Church.”
How does it work? How does it work? Notice, that’s the corporate side of it. Notice the internal side. Skip down, and the apostle Paul prays where it really works. He says, “For this reason” – right? We’re talking about, “For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom the whole family” – verse 14 of chapter 3 – “from the whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. And I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power” – where? – “through His Spirit in the inner being,” or the inner man.
Purpose – verse 17: “…so that Christ may dwell in your heart through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of the fullness of God.”
Where does God do extreme makeovers? Two places: One, He does it in a house, and the house is this Church that’s being built up.
The second place He does it is in the heart. He does it in the inner man of every woman, every man who allows the Spirit of God to have His way. And the reason He does it is – what? To demonstrate to the world His manifold wisdom.
Let me give you another little, humorous picture, if I can. A fellow told me this story; I’m sure it’s more than apocryphal. But I grew up in Ohio, and then lived for many years in West Virginia. And there are places where you can go back into what they call “the hollers,” that, I mean, people have never been to a city. I mean, way back in, way back in, way back in. Now, I don’t mean this derogatorily; it’s just how they lived.
And the story is, a fellow who lived way, way, way back in the hollers, and he decided that his son – he was about fourteen or fifteen, and he decided he needed to see a city. And he and Ma have never been there – and he was mid-60s, and never been to a dentist, so he was missing most of his front teeth. And Ma kind of looked like Pa, and she wasn’t on an exercise program, and it’s not like she was health-food conscious. Actually, they didn’t have a TV, didn’t have a radio.
And they had this old truck – if you can imagine the Beverly Hillbillies, open wide in the back, all their stuff, and – bum, bum, bum, ringy, ringy – they’re going to town, right?
And so, they get to town. It’s a big city, and the big skyscraper. And as they go through town, it just, “Shucks, Dad, look at that! Wow, look at that!” Their eyes are big.
And, finally, they – he wants to open a bank account. And there’s a bank in this big, high tower area, and all glass. And he looks up, and can’t believe what it’s like, and he says, “Ma, you stay here. Sonny, you come with me.” And he’s got his overalls, and he’s got the straps over, and one foot on; he’s got the barefooted, and they walk in together, and everyone looks at them.
And he stops, and as he walks in, there’s a chain of elevators, bright and shiny. And they’re looking to see where the bank is, and the elevators are over there. And so, pretty soon, he sees a lady who, really, probably had some arthritis, and she had one of the canes with the four prongs, and she was humped over a little bit. And the doors opened, and then she got in, and the doors closed. And they watched all these lights go off, and in about twenty seconds after all the lights, the doors opened, and this gorgeous, unbelievable, knock-out blonde walks out. And he looks to his son, and he says, “I believe there’s a magic box in this place.” And then, he said to his son, “Go get Ma.”
And you know something? That’s what God wants to do. It doesn’t happen in a magic box; it doesn’t happen overnight. There is a clear process. But the dramatic nature of the change, the extreme makeover God wants to do in you, and in every person, through a relationship with Christ. That’s what He wants to do. And where He does it is in this thing called “the household of God; the Church.” And how He does it, individually, is in the human hearts of people. And He works in your human heart, in the household of the Church.
But if you’ve ever seen a person paint, or if you’ve ever seen a sculptor doing a masterpiece – because you’re a masterpiece – there’s got to be tools, right? I don’t think God is finger-painting. I think He has multiple brushes. And when God is sculpting, I think He has multiple tools to put lines in, to create in you.
Because, see, your DNA, both spiritually and physically, is different than anyone else. Why? Because He has a purpose for you. He has a goal for you. He has a target for you. He has loved you, saved you, and purposed you. There are some good works that you’re going to walk in. There’s a unique calling He has for your life, that you’re going to accomplish something, in the scheme of God, that no one else can.
And you know what? It doesn’t have to be highly visible. You don’t have to be famous. You don’t have to get up in front of people. You need to do the good works that He preordained, or prepared in advance, for you. Now, here’s the question. We found out where it occurs: the Church and in the human heart. Now what I want to ask and answer is, how? How does God specifically do these spiritual makeovers? Because I don’t know about you, I want in on this, and I want as much of it as I can get. So, how does He do it?
Now, you’ll notice, chapter 2, who you used to be; who you are now. Chapter 3, the purpose for it, how it occurs. Turn now to chapter 4 and pick it up at verse 7.
He has, in the first three chapters of this book, told people, “This is the new you that you are.” The first three chapters of Ephesians are all about your new identity in Christ. You’re a son. You’re a daughter. You’re adopted. You’re loved. You’re sealed by the Spirit. You have an inheritance. You are loved. You are accepted in the Beloved.
And then, chapter 4 opens up and says, “Since God has done all these miraculous, wonderful things for you already, and it’s already true, and you can’t earn it, you already possess it, walk in a manner worthy of your calling.” That’s the whole – chapter 4, chapter 5, and chapter 6 are about, “Look, here’s what you believe, because it’s true, and this is how you ought to live, so that your beliefs and your behavior line up.”
And so, he says that in the first six verses. And then, he’s going to tell us how it actually works. So, in verse 7 he says, “But to each one of us grace” – literally, it’s a grace gift. The word here is “an endowment.” “To each one of us a grace gift” – or an endowment – “has been given as Christ apportioned it. And that’s why it says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captives in His train and gave gifts to men.’ And when He ascended He is the very one who ascended higher than the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was He who gave” – now, this endowment, these gifts – here are some of the gifts. He gave gifts to the Church: “some apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastor/teachers” – why? – “to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ might be built up until” – get verse 13; look at this carefully – “until we all reach the unity in the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the full measure of the fullness of Christ.”
What he’s going to say is that – we could study this in depth. What he’s going to say is that when Christ died on the cross, He paid for your sin. He redeemed you. The possibility of restoration occurs when we come to faith in Him. Then, after He died on the cross, between that time that He died and was resurrected – and we have a whole study on this, but I won’t go into it now – He literally proclaimed His victory over Satan, He proclaimed his victory over sin, and He broke the power of sin in your life. And so, you not only used to be dead, now you’re alive, but Christ’s victory – He tells you that the evidence of His victory over Satan, over death, and over sin is that He would take spiritual gifts, and deposit them in His Church.
Because you know what the tools are for transformation? You know what His paintbrushes are that come out of my life to shape your life, and out of your life to shape mine? You know what the little scalpel-type tools are that He works in the clay? It’s the spiritual gifts deposited in you, and the spiritual gift deposited in me. And as we live in authentic, loving community around the Word of God, the gifts out of your life, and the gifts out of my life…you are the paintbrush in God’s hand, He’s dipping in multiple different colors to recreate the new me that He’s making.
Your spiritual gift is the evidence that Christ has won the victory. Your spiritual gift is the evidence that the power of sin is broken in your life. Your spiritual gift is evidence that, you know what? Satan has no more power over you.
And what we’re going to talk about is how to discover, how to develop, and how to deploy your spiritual gifts. And if you’re thinking, Buddy, you took us through almost the entire book of Ephesians to get there, I’m going to tell you why.
When we talk about spiritual gifts in the Church, I hear people talk about it like they’re going to a salad bar. “There’s the salad bar of spiritual gifts.” “What’s yours?” “I don’t know, Fred, what’s yours?” “How about you, Ethel? Do you know what yours is?” And it’s kind of like kids in a candy shop. “It might be this; it might be that. Why don’t we take this little test and find out?” And dah, dah, dah, dah, dah. And, you know what? We’ve separated it from the theology.
And I’ll tell you what, if I were to ask most people in here – because I’ve done a lot of surveys – “What are your primary spiritual gifts, you know exactly what it is before God?” very few people would raise their hand. “What are your secondary spiritual gifts? How do you live them out? How much do you know about spiritual gifts? How much do spiritual gifts tell you what to do, what not to do?”
You know, we all say, “There are so many demands. What should I do?” Tell you what, God has given you spiritual gifts; He’s made you a tool. And you know something? I’ve tried hammering with a screwdriver. It is not very effective. He has made you a tool. He wants screwdrivers to do, spiritually, screws. He wants hammers to pound nails. He wants levels to level things.
And because you don’t know your spiritual gifts, because you don’t know how to discover them, you don’t know how to deploy them, you don’t know when to say “yes,” when to say “no,” and we’ve got Christians everywhere, basically out of guilt, manipulation – sadly, to say, as a fellow pastor, I’ve done that a couple times. Got to fill that slot.
We have people out of their giftedness, not understanding their gifts, and, therefore, one, not being used by God the way God used Jim. And even worse, you don’t experience the joy that God intended for you, the good works that you’re to walk in. So many Christians are walking in someone else’s good works.
And there are certain things, I know they’re good. I see people who are passionate, and they’re great at it. I’m just not good at it. And when I try to do it – now, out of service, man, you’ve got to do whatever you’re supposed to do. I’m not saying that you only do things that are in your gifts. But what I’m saying is that the prime majority of your energy, and focus, and time needs to go in what God made you to do.
And in this passage, he makes it clear. How does God do extreme makeovers? Christ gave spiritual gifts. He gave spiritual gifts – how? By the ascended Christ, to every believer, for the profit of others, through the Holy Spirit, sovereignly. He gave Jim his gift. He gave me my gift. He gave you your gift, sovereignly. He chose.
You study this carefully, you realize, with a great, deliberate thought of the will – there are two or three words in the New Testament for the idea of God’s will, and God’s intention, and I’ve studied them. And when it talks about spiritual gifts, it’s with deliberation. It’s with thought. It’s with, He gave you the spiritual gift that will equip you to walk in the good works and the purposes you’re supposed to fulfill.
And so, He’s done it by the ascended Christ to every believer, for the profit of others, through the Holy Spirit, sovereignly – when? At the time of salvation, on the basis of grace. You didn’t earn it. This whole thing about, “Oh, this person has this gift, and that person has…”
You know what? It’s free. I’m not going to compare mine with yours. You have what God gave you. What I have, it was free. It was grace. What you have it’s free; it’s grace. Why? Because there are works that God wants me to walk in. There are good works that I’ve been called and preordained that God prepared in advance that I should do, and that you should do.
But I’m going to, my testimony is, I did a lot of “Christian” things, and things in general and my joy factor never skyrocketed, and the impact of my life for the Kingdom of God never took off, until I got clear: This is my primary spiritual gift. Here are my secondary gifts, ministry gifts God gives around that, and I’m going to focus my life, my time, my energy around those. And when I did that, and said “no” to other stuff, I saw God begin to use my life in ways I never dreamed.
It’s not because I’m special. It’s because that’s the paintbrush He put inside of me, to do what? To take the palette of truth and colors in His Word, to recreate in people’s hearts and people’s lives.
Notice the final thing here: It produces the life of Christ in every believer. See, that’s the goal. The gifts in you, the gifts in me, in community, around God’s Word, are going produce the life of Jesus in every believer.
Isn’t that the extreme makeover? Isn’t God’s plan, if you wanted to reduce it to that silly story – isn’t His plan that we’re outside the elevator, that we’ve been living in the hills in ignorance, and we just didn’t really know any better, and often willful rebellions, or passive indifference, and we come to a relationship with Christ, and it really is like the magic box. You come into this new relationship. But it’s not an elevator; it’s the body of Christ.
And the moment you walk in, the Spirit of God comes into your life. And you’re with other people, and they have gifts, and you have gifts. And their gifts are the paintbrushes and the tools that take the Word of God, and the truth of God, and the love of God to show and be the kindness of Christ. And that’s how my life changes.
I look back on Jim’s life – he has the most radical story. His life now is so amazing. I remember when his son came back to visit him. This is a kid who just – and he, literally, had one of those, “Is that you, Dad?” And by the way, don’t get the idea this was a two-year deal. We’re talking nine, eight, nine years later. And his son, who’d been wayward, and came up through this drug-infested family, came and visited for two weeks, came to church a couple times, very suspect. Got around his dad.
He came to me afterwards, he said, “Is this stuff real?” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “Is my Dad just putting on an act?” I said, “So, what do you mean?” He said, “Man, I lived with this guy, and the guy that I’m eating dinner with at night is not the same man. And I went to that Friday night, that Celebrate Recovery thing. People treat my dad like he’s like something special. And they are so open, and they appreciate him. I just never saw any of that. Is this for real?”
I told him, “You’d better believe it is.” I said, “I’ll tell you what. You just pray this prayer. Ask God, if He’s really real, to reveal Himself to you. And you tell God, ‘If You’ll reveal Yourself to me, in a way I could understand, then I will allow You to do whatever You want in my life.’” And he spent the next week evaluating and looking at his dad’s life.
And you know, I look at where Jim was, and what I realized was, God took the spiritual gift of mercy, through my wife, and let him feel loved, early on, when he didn’t think anybody cared. He took the spiritual gift of teaching, through me, so that he could take the lies about himself, and he learned the truth of God’s Word. He took the spiritual gift of exhortation, through Joe, who was our counselor, and began to help him learn and grow.
And then, He took the spiritual gifts of a small group community that were in the Bible, week by week, together, to demonstrate God’s love, and kindness, acceptance, where Jim realized, his past is behind him. There’s nothing to prove; there’s nothing to lose. And then, Jim began to see he had gifts, and he began to then reproduce his life. He walked in the good works God had for him.
Do you know your spiritual gift, your primary one? Are you using your spiritual gift? How much do you know about spiritual gifts? Or is it just this little thing, over on the side, and then we try and teach people just enough so we can get them connected, so they can fill some of the slots in the programs of our church?
I want to tell you, I spent a whole session giving you a theology of what God wants to do in your life. He is in the extreme makeover business. And He doesn’t want a little makeover in you. He wants an extreme makeover.
And I want to tell you something – if you don’t get it you’re going to miss everything. The tool God uses, the tools God uses in this household, this place called “the Church,” in your human heart, that He wants to transform you and others – the tool He uses is your spiritual gift functioning in submission to the Holy Spirit, in the community of God’s people, according to God’s Word. And He wants to use you as a paintbrush, and as one of those little tools that shapes the clay. And He wants to use you to write His new life, the new novel that He’s building in the lives of other people, as you walk in the good deeds He has prepared for you.
Now, what I knew was, I was going to bring you right to the point where you were going to say to yourself, I hope, You know what? I really need to know a lot more about spiritual gifts than I do, and I need to discover the one that I have. And I better figure out how to develop it.
When we get together next time, what we’re going to do, we’re going to roll up our sleeves, and we’re going to learn to discover your spiritual gift. We’re going to learn how they fit together, and how they work. And then, we’re going to learn how to deploy your spiritual gift. And my prayer for you is that you’ll learn to walk in the good works that God prepared for you in advance.