At Gateway Church in Austin, we concluded our series called You Belong Here.
When you are part of something bigger than yourself— a job, family, or organization, for instance—you experience how everyone has a role to play in order for everything to run smoothly. In God’s family, His Church, it’s no different. He gifted each and every one of us with a spiritual ability to do something important and necessary that can impact everyone around us. How has God gifted you?
The You Belong Here series includes the following messages:
- An Ideal Community
- A Real Community
- A Diverse Community
- A Gifted Community
- A Supernatural Community
- Bonus: A Call to Unity
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
WITH YOUR FAMILY, ROOMMATES, OR LIFE GROUP, WORK THROUGH THE MESSAGE NEXT STEPS:
Bonus Reading: from Not Like Me: Learning to Love, Serve, and Influence Our Divided World – Chapters 4, 5, and the Conclusion
LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE I SHARED AT GATEWAY IN SOUTH AUSTIN:
HERE ARE THE MESSAGE NOTES FROM JOHN BURKE:
Today we’re wrapping up our series You Belong Here.
We’ve talked about how God’s goal for church is community—where you’re known, loved, accepted as is and as you do the same for others.
- Together we create the soil where God causes growth in all of us, and we grow up spiritually into the loving people God intended.
- We become a loving Family, but not only that, God sees us as His Body – made up of men and women from a variety of backgrounds ethnically and socioeconomically.
- It’s mysterious, but God says he gives every adopted son or daughter—every one of you—spiritual gifts to use to serve each other, and different people with different gifts function together as the body of Christ on earth.
- In other words, if we’re willing, God’s Spirit leads us to work together with our diversity of gifts, to do the things Jesus came and did.
1 Corinthians chapter 12, 13, and 14 are all about this.
Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed… 4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:1-6
We talked about this last week, if you’ve accepted God’s forgiveness and leadership through Jesus, God’s Spirit is in you to lead and guide you, and He gives each one a spiritual gift (or gifts). And when you discover and deploy those gifts to serve others—it’s life-giving. It’s so energizing, because you see God changing lives through you working with others.
We talked last week about the “natural” gifts like leadership, administration/organization, mercy, helps/service, teaching, giving, (apostleship) spiritual entrepreneurship—starting new things. I call these “natural” gifts only because you can see them naturally at work—leaders, teachers, counselors showing mercy. They become a Spiritual Gift when God’s Spirit starts using them to impact people spiritually and grow His church, his kingdom. The natural Gift God’s given becomes a Spiritual Gift.
I grew up in an environment where spiritual gifts were never discussed, and I have to admit, the only time I ever saw churches talking about spiritual gifts seemed to misuse or even abuse them. They were churches that seemed to elevate a certain leader or pastor who took advantage of vulnerable people. Some of these are the ones featured on TV.
And that didn’t seem quite right either. So I avoided and was more skeptical of the more supernatural gifts.
In the U.S. there seems to be 4 types of churches that emphasize the Bible, Spiritual Gifts, Activism, and Seekers–but doesn’t God want all local expressions of the Church to include all?
The passage in 1 Corinthians 12 talks about natural gifts and supernatural gifts (which I’d define as not naturally occurring in other realms of life):
8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12:8-11
So let me share with you what I’ve learned from scripture and experience about these gifts, and if you’ve experienced them, to know you belong here. And I want to explain how I think God wants us to use them in line with our mission to help unchurched people:
Honor and Develop All the Gifts
God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it,25 so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 1 Corinthians 12:24-27.
- So the upfront gifts, like teaching, are not more important than the gift of service those who love to help park cars do, in fact we should give greater honor to them because it’s unseen.
- And the wow gifts, the supernatural, are not to be seen as more spiritual or Godly, because it’s God who gives them.
- God wants us to be a unified, inter-connected body, with God’s Spirit as the head as we all follow His lead to work together for His purposes.
- I have gifts of Apostleship, Faith, Exhortation, and Teaching.
- But I’ve realized we need people with all the different gifts to be all God wants us to be.
So how do you know if you have the supernatural gifts?
Let’s look at that list in 1 Cor 12:
Word of wisdom or Word of knowledge or Prophecy
They’re different but similar. Some people will have thoughts or words or pictures pop into their minds—which we all have that—but the difference is that they’ll realize it was an insight from God into a problem or into a person’s struggle or even into a future event.
Jesus as a human had a Word of knowledge about the Samaritan Woman who had been divorced five times—he used it to point her to God’s love to meet that unquenchable relational thirst.
If you get specific pieces of information that God reveals that could not have been naturally known, or if you tend to have Insights about people that when expressed, they confirm is true—that’s probably a word of knowledge.
A Word of Wisdom is divine insight into the solution to a problem or a situation—you look back and realize—I didn’t come up with that on my own.
Then Prophecy is about proclaiming what is true. It is knowledge about something past, present or future given by God sometimes in a dream, sometimes a vision or mental picture—when it happens you realize, that was from God. It is more about “forth telling” than “fortune telling” (although that can happen from time to time).
Now again, my cynical side would watch the televangelists talk about this stuff, and it just looked cooky, honestly. It just seemed like a stunt or show or ploy—right.
And let me just say—just like there are false teachers, or corrupt leaders, people can use God’s gifts for good or evil, they can get twisted and used for self-centered reasons instead of humbly serving God and building up others. So don’t believe everyone. In fact we are told
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
If you think you have these gifts, a couple of important things.
First, these are ESSENTIAL – go to Advance or the Hearing God workshop we’re hosting to discover and develop these more supernatural gifts—they’re not weird, they’re for loving and serving people. But they can be used for good, or can cause great harm—which is why we want people mentored under others who are mature in knowing how to hold these gifts.
- One thing NOT to do, do not go around saying “God told me.”
- You’re never 100% sure before you check it out, right? So hold it in that posture.
- Frame it as a question “Can I ask you”…or say “I had this thought I feel like I’m supposed to share—does that mean anything to you?”
- If you go around saying “God told me to tell you” That’s not a humble, or necessary posture, and it could be damaging if you got it wrong.
- If it’s truly from God, they’ll know.
But the point is, don’t push or power up, “God told me” or “I know this about you,” humbly present it as a question or possible message, and if it’s from God, they’ll know and it will encourage them. That’s the point:
3 But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 1 Corinthians 14:3
Remember that—to strengthen, encourage, comfort. I’ve seen it used in the opposite ways, but that’s not what God says he intends it for, so get mentored to use it wisely.
And prophets are subject to prophets; 33 for God is not a God of confusion but of peace. 1 Corinthians 14:32-33
This means God’s not going to tell one person one thing, but another a contradictory thing that goes against scripture or against a team of godly gifted leaders—so all these gifts are to be used under the authority of our Overseers—who I report to—and in a way that helps us all accomplish the mission of Jesus as His body. What about…
Gifts of Healing / Miracles
This is the supernatural ability to pray for people or pray for things to happen that seem outside the normal.
- I’ve seen and heard this happening here at Gateway, and if God gifts you in this way, we want you to use it to help people.
- But important thing to remember—it’s not about you.
- God doesn’t always heal, and you don’t have superhero powers if He chooses to do amazing things when you pray—it’s God doing it, and He doesn’t do it by us, but chooses to do it through us.
- Which creates mystery. He doesn’t always do as we want or desire—there’s mystery to when and why God does or doesn’t work.
- Those who truly have this gift will admit there’s mystery to it. It gets corrupted when people act like it’s “on demand.”
Like Tara, who teaches our Hearing God class, didn’t think she had this gift. But God prompted her to pray for a woman’s pain, and he did heal her.
That gave her faith to pray for others hurting or sick and she kept seeing God do amazing things.
But during that same time, she found out her best friend was extremely sick. A mother with two children. So in faith, Tara prays and prays—and after 7 months of praying, her friend dies.
Why? Because we don’t heal or do miracles—God does. And God does for his purposes and timing, which we don’t always understand.
So if someone’s abusing this gift, saying “you’d just be healed if you had more faith.” Well, Jesus wasn’t spared death—and Paul saw God heal many through him, yet he wasn’t healed after praying 3 times for himself, God said “No, my grace is enough for you.”
So these are not for us to use to act like we’re special, or powerful, cause we’re nothing without God, but amazingly God uses us as conduits. And, by the way, he also uses Doctors and Nurses and science even more but in the same way. In fact, I think God’s preferred way is to use people serving people.
You may be thinking: “If people can really pray and God heals—why don’t they go to the hospital and heal all those people.” It’s a good question. I love what Tara said she learned when God was healing many, but not her best friend. “God taught about what it means to live in the tension and mystery of why our prayers aren’t always answered the way we desire.”
We need to build our understanding of God from what Jesus revealed, he’s a healer, not around our experiences.
Why, when, or how he chooses to heal is not always clear.
God’s goal is to be loved and trusted, not used to get our will done.
And his perspective is eternal—an ultimate healing.
Tara said, when people asked me “Why do you think she wasn’t healed?”, I don’t say things like “God needed another angel” or “She didn’t have enough faith.”
That’s us unwilling to live in the tension and mystery. I say, “I don’t know why she wasn’t healed. But what I do know God is healer and I will not stop praying for people for healing. She says she’s seen many people physically healed since that season.
Distinguishing between spirits
This is a discernment gift that if you have, God gives you the ability to sense if there’s something deceptive or underhanded or evil at work.
- If you kind of have a Spidey sense if someone’s deceiving or lying, then it turns out to be true, or if you seem to get a download about a situation that it’s not good—something foul is up—and it turns out to be true; you may have this gift.
- Again, Advance and the Hearing God workshop will help you understand this more, and more on how to use it to build up and protect God’s people and his church.
- But hold it in the same careful way—no declaring “You’re possessed.”
- That’s not helpful, and I’ve seen people drive away people exploring faith with that behavior.
- But used with maturity, it can help minister to people and protect people.
Tongues / Interpretation of tongues
This one is the most interesting, and most potentially divisive. In fact, 1 Corinthians 14 is all about not making this gift so important because it does the least to build up others. Paul says it’s
For anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to people but to God. Indeed, no one understands them; they utter mysteries by the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2.
It’s sometimes called a prayer language. That when people are so filled up with God’s Spirit it feels they’ll explode from the love or joy inside, they’ll find God’s Spirit praising through them in a Heavenly Language. It builds them up—in fact, it’s the lessor of the gifts Paul says because
the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort. 4 Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves. 1 Corinthians 14:3-4.
Personally, I’ve never spoken in tongues, but I have friends here at Gateway who do. And again, it was leading people to faith, not teaching them about it, and then they come ask me what happened—and I have to point them to scripture. I guess God’s given you this gift.
If you have these gifts, we want you to develop them and use them. But scripture gives some guidance as to how, and as a church whose mission is to Help Unchurched people become a unified community of growing, multiplying Christ followers” we need to steward this gifts for that mission—not for our own purposes. So here are a few principles to follow:
Discover and Develop Your Gift(s).
True of all the gifts:
For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 1 Timothy 1:6
Start serving others with others and let others speak into your life about what gifts they see in you!
Learn from others who have been using their gifts over time and have experience doing so.
Use with Restraint.
Some feel like this is putting limits on God, but it’s not at all according to scripture. I restrain my teaching gift for the good of the whole church and those still exploring—not just what I’d like. All the gifts are to be used this way—it’s not about us. So in 1 Corinthians 14 Paul says use restraint—know who is there and what’s helpful.
23 So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? 1 Corinthians 14:23.
Yes, they will. Scripture says we can restrain how and when we use these gifts. So this service is not the place for those gifts to best build others up. Life groups or one on one conversations or prayer is.
To Love and Build Up Others
Isn’t it interesting that 1 Corinthians 13, the Love chapter used in weddings, is actually about spiritual gifts—it’s sandwiched between 2 chapters on gifts, saying:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-2
If our use of these gifts is not about building up others, motivated by love, we’re missing God’s intent. So the fruit of the Spirit, love, peace, patience, self control will be the outcome of mature use of all the gifts. And the result is that everyone benefits.
We need to pursue the Spirit of God and demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit even as we seek to operate in the gifts of the Spirit.
You Belong Here. You can come as you are, and we will help you find faith, love, and hope and not stay as you are.
We need your help to create the space where others can hear you say: “You Belong Here.” We need your help to help this place as be a place where people hear you say: “You can come as you are, and we will help you find faith, love, and hope and not stay as you are.”
All of these gifts operate in the context of God’s character as demonstrated in the Scriptures. For some of you your next step may be understanding who God is and spending time in the Scriptures More than you ever have before. For some of you it’s a start serving and in those context of studying the Scriptures and serving others your spiritual gifts to become evident.
In this series, we have emphasized that You Belong Here. As you serve and discover your gifts you are becoming who God created you to be and helping others in their journey too. Some of us really need to do more work to know more who God is so we can test the spirits as i mentioned earlier.”
Leading up to Easter we’re looking at some of the prophets who pointed towards the Messiah. And every week we’re going to invite you to spend more time in the Scriptures than you normally do to prepare your heart to hear from God. Next week we are looking at Moses so try to read from Exodus 1-18 and we will post a video on our Facebook page that you can watch to help give you more of the context.
But let’s be intentional about discovering who God is and who he has created us to be! Our church needs us and our world needs us to become all He has created us to be!