Spiritual Gifts

1 Cor. 1:4-7 (ESV) 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge-- 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you--7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Gifted classes. Elite sports leagues. Advanced degrees. Lofty titles. Gated communities. It is human nature to want to distinguish ourselves. To justify our existence. To boost our ego.

Unlike ever before, thanks to television and the internet, it is easy to watch as the brightest and best display their talents for all to see, and to feel the need to set ourselves apart. However, these me-first desires are destructive to the soul and to a community. They foster pride and depression; jealousy and division.

The Corinthian church was wealthy and gifted. It was also one of the most divided churches the world has ever seen. How can we keep that from happening to us?

First, we need to unpack a theological truth that every Christian needs to understand, as it is a frequent idea in this letter and a big part of the problem at the Corinthian church. Every Christian has the Holy Spirit, and when the Spirit takes up residence in your life, He equips you with spiritual gifts. Spiritual gifts are given for the building up of the church - the edifying of other saints - and not for the building up of the individual who has been given the gift. The first point to understand: Talents often build up the talented. Spiritual gifts are to build up others. Notice that he talks to them about gifts within the context of grace - which is the unearned favor of God.

Second, note Paul's use of the word "enriched." He uses this word because spiritual gifts may build upon talents God gave us at birth or abilities we have acquired through training or experience. There are many times when this is not the case, but in such instances, the Holy Spirit deepens and transforms what was already there - taking a talent and declaring it His - to be used for His glory and no longer for our own. In the Corinthian context, it was their speech and knowledge.

Finally, seeing the evidence of spiritual gifts in your life prepare you for the second coming of Jesus in two ways. First, they confirm the gospel has taken root in your heart. Do you see the Spirit working through you - taking your service to the Lord and using it for the work of the gospel, the building of the church, and the glory of God? Second, as we each use the spiritual gifts God has given us within the church community, we help one another grow in our faith, continuing and advancing forward until the day we stand before Christ. I'll say it again, Christianity is a team sport. Are you in the game or sitting the bench?

Do you see evidence of spiritual gifts in your life? Are you using them in the context of a local church? If not, get going. How? Look for a need in your church and look to fill it. God will confirm if He has gifted you to the work or not. If not, look for a different need and fill it. If you are using your spiritual gifts in a local church, then thank God, because this too is evidence of His grace in your life. He has gifted you that you might know the joy of serving the King of Kings! Sure, serving others is hard, but it is a crucial part of your growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Get going! Serve your King!

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God's Great Gifts For Today

1 Corinthians 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,

Few of us bother to open our email with a greeting any longer. If we do, it is generally pleasantries. If we close them with an expression, it is likely a pre-typed part of our signature. My point is that we most likely write these things with little thought at all.

Paul begins each of his letters to churches with the same expression. But there is a great intentionality and power in these words, not just for the early church, but also for you today. We find those words in v.3.

Grace is undeserved favor. Perhaps you think that grace is only the disposition of God's heart toward you. Or you think of God's grace as being something God gave you once when you first believed in Christ for your salvation. Both of these statements are true and good reminders for us. When, in verse 4, Paul gives thanks for the grace of God that was given to them in Christ Jesus, he is certainly reminding them of God's past grace to them in their salvation.

But when Paul says "grace to you" he is also telling them something important about what it means for them to walk in grace for that day. In addition to being the disposition of God's heart toward you and the gift of God in the cross to those who believe, it is also the power of God at work in you today. It is a daily gift that God continues to give you each moment of each day. Christian, you are swimming today in the grace of God. Take a moment and think through the day that is ahead of you. It will have challenges that you can foresee and some you can't. God's grace is the power at work in you in every situation both external and internal.

He also reminds them of the peace that is theirs. Peace is the result of the grace of God. It is the condition of the heart that trusts in God for salvation and for daily needs. If God, by grace, provided for your greatest need for salvation, will he not provide for your daily needs?

Romans 8:32 (ESV) — 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Peace is resting in God and in your restored relationship as His child through Jesus Christ. How does this truth affect the things that are causing you a lack of peace this morning? What will it mean for you to experience the peace of God today?

Christian, the gift of God extended to you today in Christ are grace and peace. I pray you will walk in them today.

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What Unites the Church?

1 Corinthians 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Catholic. Baptist. Methodist. Presbyterian. Lutheran. Non-Demoninational. Evangelical. Protestant. Many people look at Christianity and see only division. There are good reasons for us to have these labels and separations in the sense that it indicates a desire to be faithful to God's Word on various second and third tier doctrines. But often these divisions can become a sign of unhealthy disunity within the larger body of The Church. By The Church, I mean all Christians in all places. While I do believe in the local church as the primary expression of the Body of Christ in the world, I certainly also believe that we are united with all who share with us in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Why does Paul begin his letter to this divided and unhealthy church by telling them that they are united in their salvation with all who "in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ?" I believe there are at least two reasons:

(1) For our joy

I have had the privilege of worshiping with Christians on three continents from various denominational backgrounds. Sometimes I had the pleasure of an interpreter. Other times language was a barrier. But in every instance, there was in my heart a deepened sense of worship because there was a unity in my spirit with their spirits because of the mutual testimony of the gospel and presence of the Holy Spirit among us. The same happens on Sunday at Immanuel. There are many people that I share a joyful sense of unity in worship of Christ, dear brothers and sisters in the deepest sense of the word, with whom I have nearly nothing else in common. What binds me together with fellow believers in Brazil or Russia, or East Greenbush or Schodack is a unity of being under the Lordship of Christ. If you are a lone ranger Christian or someone who thrives on division, you will never know this joy. That would be a tragedy not only of your testimony, but also of a missed experience of the joy that is yours in Christ.

(2) For our unity

Divisions happen when we sinfully place ourselves at the center. When we deny the rightful place of Lord to Christ, self always creeps back in. Then we divide over preferences and perceived slights or offenses, because the self-god is challenged. But Christian, all of your life is a striving to follow Lord Jesus. When Jesus is the Lord of my life and the Lord of your life, we are serving the same Lord, with one purpose and shared devotion. When disagreements come, we can again bring them back to the Lord together and in our mutual submission to Him, find unity.

Ask yourself today in every situation: Am I acknowledging Jesus as Lord over this? In every disagreement, ask: Am I serving myself in my response or am I serving Jesus with my words, my will, or my actions? How do I need to submit an issue or a relationship to Christ's Lordship trusting that He will provide the joy of unity even if I am having to set aside immediate wants or comforts?

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Who Is the Church? 1 Corinthians 1:1-2

1 Corinthians 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Yesterday, we saw that the church is the local expression of the body of Christ.

Today, we want to focus on who is the church? Is it those whose parents went to a Christian church? Is it those who were catechized or confirmed? Baptized as a child? Walked an aisle or signed a card? Attended a membership class?

The quick answer is that the church is Christians gathered as the body of Christ for the building up of one another and the spreading of the good news of salvation in Christ.

But this is not where Paul begins. When Paul begins to address this body of Christians in Corinth, he reminds them that they are those who were "called to be saints."

What does it mean to be the "called?" First, it means that God personally called you, if you are a Christian. The other night, shortly after falling asleep, I was awakened by the sound of my own name. My wife was reminding me of something that needed to be done before the day was over. She didn't issue a general call to anyone who might take care of it. She called me by name, because I am hers by covenant.

When Paul reminds them that they are called, he reminds them that what defines them as a group is that God called them. Jesus said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." (Jn. 10:27-28 ESV) Have you heard the call of God on your heart leading you to repentance from sin and faith in Christ? If yes, then rejoice that God called you out of darkness and into light; out of death and into life. Your salvation was a work of God - not yourself. It is not dependent on your goodness or the momentary strength or weakness of your faith, but on the strength and goodness of the one who called you.

Second, it means that you are called out of an old way of living according to the desires that were formerly yours, into a new life. This is why he says that we are "called to be saints."  Saint is not a title reserved to the especially holy Christians - in fact, as we just saw, it has nothing to do with what you do and everything to do with what God has done. A saint is a holy person. Christian, God has called you and, in doing so, has declared you to be holy - set apart for himself.

2 Timothy 1:9 says that God "saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began..."

Christian, rejoice today that when God called you, he set you apart for himself. You are a saint by the declaration of God! You are set apart for God! The church is not made up of those who are good, nor of those who chose God, but of those that God called and set apart. There is both great comfort and encouragement in that for the Christian to join with other Christians to be the Church.

 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Phil. 1:6 ESV) 

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What is the Church? - 1 Corinthians 1:1-2

1 Corinthians 1:1–2 (ESV) — 1 Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

What is the church? Is it a building? Is it a place you go to become a better person? A community to belong to? Is it obsolete and outdated? Hopelessly dysfunctional? A place to be entertained by dynamic public speakers, rocking music, and a great light show?

I'm convinced that most Christians don't know what the church is. Is it any wonder then that those outside the church don't quite know what to make of us either?

1 Corinthians is a love letter to a dysfunctional and broken church. It is a reminder of what the church is. It addresses so much brokenness, but always with a beautiful reminder of the exalted call to be the Church.

After addressing himself to this church that he knew so well, Paul reminds us of three things:

  1. The importance of the local church.

While it may seem obvious, Paul addresses his letter not simply to any and every Christian, but to a specific body of believers in Corinth. While the Church is more than one body, it is never less than one body.

There are so many Christians today who want to exist outside of a committed membership of a local church body. Perhaps it is because they have seen how dysfunctional churches can be. So have I! But no church you've been to was as dysfunctional as the church at Corinth, and yet, Paul doesn't tell them to abandon gathering together. Far from it! He calls them to unity!

Christian, God wants you committed to a local body of believers. The local church is God's tool to accomplish His will in your life and in your community. It is the pattern laid out in the New Testament and the will of God for every Christian. Neither of us are the exception. Jesus did not tell Peter that on the rock of his confession of Christ, He would build your small group. He did not say that the gates of Hell would not overcome your accountability group or men's ministry! He said He would build His church.

Are you in regular attendance in Sunday worship? Before you answer, think through your attendance record over the last 3 months. If not, why not? Is the gathering of the church a priority in your week? When something is a priority, we sacrifice for it.

Are you committed to a local church? Are you serving in some area of ministry on a regular basis? Are you building relationships with other people in your church with the view of submitting your needs and desires for their good? Or do you more often find yourself wanting to walk away because the church isn't meeting your needs? Ephesians 5:21 tells us to submit "to one another out of reverence to Christ." In other words, if I'm not willing to set myself and my desires aside to invest in meeting your needs, then my relationship with Christ is not what it should be.

If you are not committed to a local church, then ask God to help you set aside and repent of whatever is keeping you from committing yourself to a local body of believers. The church is a crucial part of God's plan for your holiness and joy. It was true for this messed up church then, and it is true for our church today.

Tomorrow, we'll consider Paul's second reminder to us as the Church...

2. God graciously called us into the church in our salvation.

Then on Thursday, we'll see the significance of his third reminder...

3. That we are joined together with all Christians.

You are loved!

Pastor Brad

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