Wednesday, 27 February 2013

How do I discover my gifts?

There is no unemployment in the Kingdom of God. God has given each member of the Church "gifts according to the grace given us" (Romans 12:6). That means that God has graced each one of us to serve each another in different ways. The question is, "What gifts have I received and what am I supposed to do with them?"

The purpose of the gifts

"Freely you have received, freely give!" Matthew 10:8

Firstly we must understand that God's gifts are freely given to us. We cannot earn them. 

Secondly we must understand that the gifts God gives us are not meant to be self-serving but are given to serve others. In view of what God has done for us (His mercy), God calls us to no longer live for ourselves but for God and others. This change of attitude comes about as we change the way we think about our lives and consider what God desires. The pattern of the world is self-centredness and self-gratification but the way of the Kingdom is other-consciousness and living for the benefit of others. As the believer lives a life of dying to self and living for God, s/he lives as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God (Rom. 12:1-3). 

Thirdly we must understand that God gives us gifts to be used in our lives and not only in the context of the Church organisation or meeting! Too often Christians live as unemployed people because they apparently haven't found their ministry in the Church. That is a very limited view of why God gives His children gifts! Jesus empowered His disciples to demonstrate the Kingdom of God in the world by their freely giving what they had received (see Matthew 10:8; Acts 3:1-10; 6:1-8).

Paul writes,

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere." Romans 12:6-9

We must learn to use our gifts as the Church and not just in the Church. As God's people, God has gifted us to demonstrate God's love by prophesying, serving, teaching, encouraging, being generous, leading, showing mercy and simply loving others. All these gifts should be used in the context of the Church meeting/organisation/organism as well as in the world.

How do I discover my gifts?

Look at what you already enjoy doing.

There are all sorts of complicated questionnaires one can answer to discover one's gifts. However, it really isn't that complicated. Here are a few easy questions to ask yourself to realise what you already have received.

How do you like to serve others most?

Do you like doing them a favour? (serve)
Do you like to encourage them verbally? (prophesy)
Do you like helping people to know something? (teach)
Do you like to give people gifts? (be generous)
Do you like to influence people positively? (lead)
Do you like giving to the needy? (show mercy)
Do you like to be a shoulder to cry on? (be compassionate)
Do you like being creative to bless others? (cook, create, paint, play music etc)
Do you like to keep things in order? (administrate)
Do you like to bring people and facts together? (manage)

And so on...

Look at what you do that produces positive results (good fruit).

Have a look at what you do that blesses others and even ask others what they think you are good at!
If something costs you a lot of effort and stress to produce, it probably isn't one of your gifts.

What book of the Bible do you find yourself in mostly?

I have found that we are drawn to the gifting we carry. Our worship leaders hang around the Psalms, our prophets hang around the prophets and I tend to hang around the apostle Paul. Whose life in the Bible do you admire most? Ok, apart from Jesus?

Eagerly desire the gifts

God wants us to desire more gifts so that we can demonstrate His love in more ways. The primary motivation to desire the gifts of God must be love and the desire to use the gifts for the benefit of others. 

Use what you have

As you use the little you think you have, God will give you more to steward. It's a Kingdom principle (Matthew 25:14-30; 2 Cor. 9:6).

I encourage you to realise the gifts you have received and to use them diligently to bless others within the Church and in the world. Realise God's greater purpose for giving you His gifts and freely give what you have freely received.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Israel and the Church

"His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit." Ephesians 2:17,18

The Glory of the Church

God's desire is for both Jew and Gentile to be reconciled to Him. His eternal purpose, which He accomplished in Christ, was to enable Jew and Gentile through faith in Christ, to be gathered to Him when Jesus comes again  (Eph. 3:11; 2 Thess. 2:1). The Church, made up of Jewish and Gentile believers is the revelation of God's wisdom and the demonstration of the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:7; 3:10). The Bible is clear that when Christ returns, "He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of the our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed" (2 Thess. 1:8-10). Christ is the hope of glory and it is He who indwells the community of believers, His Body the Church. Apart from Christ there is no hope of glory. This applies to both Jew and Gentile. 

Has God rejected Israel?

Christ came first for Israel and then for the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). God says of Israel, "All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people" (Rom. 10:21). However, God has not rejected His people but has made provision for them through Christ to come back to Him. The apostle Paul testifies to God's patience with Israel when he declares that even though he was an Israelite himself, God rescued him through faith in His Son (Romans 11:1)!

Is God gathering Israel?

Many people believe that God is gathering the Jewish people to the land promised to Abraham so that at some point in the future God will pour out His Spirit upon Israel and all Israel will be saved. However, this is a view that completely disregards the purpose for which Christ came. It assumes that God will rescue His chosen people apart from faith in Christ. God apparently has a special plan for Israel that is different to His plan for the Church. So while the Church is to go out from Jerusalem and be dispersed among the nations to make disciples of all people (Matt.28:18-20; Acts 1:8), God is gathering the Jews to Israel for His special plan for them. 

The truth is that God poured out His Spirit at Pentecost and Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, explained that this outpouring was the fulfillment of Joel's prophecy (Acts 2:16-21). The Jewish people in Jerusalem were urged to believe in Jesus, to repent and be baptised. This was God's way to restore His chosen people to Himself and to create in Christ one new man, the Church. Instead of building a temple of stone, God chose to build a dwelling of living stones, the temple of the Holy Spirit, the Church of Christ. The Church is looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth when Christ comes forth from Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem (Hebrews 12:18-29)

The Church's responsibility toward Israel

It is because of Israel that salvation has come to the Gentiles (John 4:22; Rom. 11:11-24). Although there is no difference between Jew and Gentile, we owe our "spiritual blessings" to the Jewish people and therefore we should be praying for their salvation as we would for a family member. The Church's responsibility toward Israel is to share with them the Good News of reconciliation to God through Christ. That is what we are called to do as ambassadors of Christ (Rom. 15:27; 2 Cor. 5:18-20). We should not comfort them in their disobedience and obstinacy but urge them to believe, repent and be baptised into Christ. Let us pray fervently for the veil to be removed from their hearts, "because only in Christ is it taken away" (2 Cor. 3:14,15).

Prayer for Israel

Pray for opportunities to witness to Jewish people
Pray for the veil to be removed in the hearts of the Jewish people
Pray for the Church to have a burden for Jew and Gentile alike to be saved
Pray for workers to be sent to share the Good News in Israel and the nations
Pray for the truth to be revealed in the Church concerning God's heart for Israel
Pray for the Prince of Peace to be revealed in Jerusalem and in Israel   

For more reading on this subject I recommend the following article by Adrian Birks:

"Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes." Romans 10:1-4

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Are you producing the fruit of the Spirit?

What kind of question is that? Surely I cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit. Is the fruit of the Spirit not His fruit? Is it not the Spirit's work to produce the nature of God in my life?

In my dealings with Christians I have discovered that there are essentially two schools of thought that believers live by. Some believe that the Christian's life is about becoming like Christ whilst others believe the Christian life is about being like Christ. 

Progressive sanctification?

Those who believe that God's children are in a process of becoming like Christ, believe that God is at work in their lives to transform them to become increasingly Christ-like. This process is described as God's sanctifying work that He is doing in the believer's life. Consequently when these believers face challenges, sickness, hardship etc, they attribute their "suffering" to God's disciplining work in their lives to produce Christ-likeness. It is described as God's refining work to produce Christ-likeness. The bottom line however is that God is held responsible for making the believer increasingly Christ-like.

Those who believe that God's children are to be Christ-like, believe that God has sanctified the believer and it is the Christian's responsibility to be like Christ. Challenges, hardship and sickness are attributed to the consequence of living in the world and the work of the Devil. Suffering is understood to be the consequence of obedience to God in this world and punishment is understood as the consequence of disobedience to God. Having received fullness in Christ and the power to be Christ-like (Col. 2:10; 2 Peter 1:3), it is the responsibility of the believer to be like Christ.

The believer's understanding of sanctification will influence and determine the way he or she lives his or her life! Those who believe in progressive sanctification wait for God to do the work while those who believe they have been sanctified do the work according to God's will. For example, the first wait for God to produce His love in them in order to love like Him while the latter have faith in the love they have received and live accordingly in obedience.

The conflict within

Every believer has two desires operating in his or her life. The apostle Paul puts it like this,

"The sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other." Gal. 5:17

There is battle going on in the believer's life and it is up to the believer to choose which desire to fulfill! The child of God must choose to follow the desires of the Spirit in order to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Following the desires of the flesh or self-centredness will produce the fruit of the sinful desires. Who produces the fruit?

That is why Paul says the following,

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law." Romans 13:8

"Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it." Romans 8:12

The apostle Paul says the believer has an obligation or a debt (Greek: opheilo) to love. 

It is therefore the believer's responsibility to follow the Spirit's desire and to obey Him and thus reveal the nature of God. The believer doesn't become increasingly loving through progressive sanctification! The believer must choose to live from the Christ within because he or she is sanctified (1 Pet. 1:14-16).

"Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God." Ephesians 5:1

"You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." Ephesians 4:22-24

Choose to follow Christ within you and produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Since we live by the Spirit let us keep in step with the Spirit." Gal. 5:22,23