Wednesday, April 18, 2012

"Spiritual Gifts"

Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic

Evangelism and Witnessing
Lesson 3: "Spiritual Gifts"

Does God call people already equipped, or does He equip the people He calls? The answer depends on whether you think evangelism requires faith. Faith accepts that God will equip us for whatever He wants us to do. Those who believe we do nothing until we have discovered our talents or "gifts," or decide a task requires talents we think we don't have, are walking by sight not by faith. Faith never depends on itself. If we think we bring some talent to God's service, we will take at least a little credit for the work we have done. All the glory is God's.
This is not to say there are no differences among people and their capabilities; each person is born with certain capabilities. The Lord told Jeremiah when He called him to be a prophet that He had formed him in the womb. Presumably, God gave Jeremiah what he needed to do the job God had prepared for him. Not all of us are called to be Jeremiahs, but all of us are called to some service for the Lord. Many well-intentioned people think they must study or attend seminars to determine what gifts God has given them so they can decide what they are equipped to do. If we use the model given us in the conversation between Jeremiah and God (see Jeremiah 1), we find that God doesn't want us to worry about what we think our capabilities are. If He calls us to service, we can trust that He either has equipped or will equip us for whatever He wants us to do.
A gift is something the receiver did not have before. Most folks think what we inherit physically from our parents is something that belongs to us, it's not a gift. Using Jeremiah's example, we realize physical characteristics are gifts from God. Whatever abilities God gave Jeremiah when He "formed him in the womb" were not Jeremiah's by right, but gifts from God. When all is explained by Jesus, even negative physical problems we inherit will be understood.
The gifts of the Spirit are not limited to human talents or capabilities.
"Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore He saith, When He ascended up on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph. 4:7, 8).
The message of Ephesians is recurring good news:
1. Each of us has been given a special gift of grace. We say of someone who is an acclaimed musician or artist, "he is gifted." So are you. There is something you are equipped to do that no one else is your equal, in that exact respect. Instead of wasting valuable resources of time and energy bemoaning your supposed ineptitudes, expend some energy thanking God for the ability He has given you.
2. The "measure of Christ's gift" is rendered in the Revised English Version as "a particular share in the bounty of Christ." We could say that from out of the generosity of Christ, each of us is given his own "gift." However small you may think your "gift" may be, the Holy Spirit can cultivate it to make it grow.
"He gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the world of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Eph. 4:11-13).
Whatever gift anyone has received from the Giver of gifts, it builds up the church. When you're perplexed about whether a message you hear or read comes from God or is a counterfeit from the Enemy, just watch and see: does it build up the church?
Those who have been privileged to study and come to love the message of 1888 know the message itself is a gift that brings such joy we can't help but sharing. It is a gift that when told, will eventually bring complete unity among God's believers wherever they are. After listing the gifts of the Spirit (Eph. 4:11, 12), Paul tells us the message will bring unity and growth. Paul's idea is that the truest church growth is not where specialist gurus come in to cause it, but where the members themselves, filled with agape, are adding new people, and helping those already in the church to grow.
That is the ultimate "evangelism," which will be demonstrated perfectly when that "other angel coming down from heaven, having great authority" illuminates the earth with His glory, calling every honest hearted soul to come out of Babylon. That other angel is again a symbol of a people who have the message and are the messengers. The outpouring of the Holy Spirit as the latter rain will supply the holy energy. The beginning of that final "gift" was given long ago, but by many it was not welcomed at the time. But God will not permit His seed to return unto Him void; He is watching over that "most precious message," and in His providence it will bear its fruit.
To know this message compels us to tell it regardless of whether we think we've been given the gift of preaching or teaching. God will engineer events in your life which present opportunities to share this most precious message. At times, it may not seem like we are doing anything significant, but God uses us as He needs to minister to others. Pray that we walk worthy so God can use us for His purposes.
--Arlene Hill
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