Monday, August 03, 2009

Spiritual Gifts

I started wrestling last night with the first of my questions to myself: What are your spiritual gifts?

That presumes a first question, which is what are the spiritual gifts? And that, as the saying goes, is the rest of the story...

It seems that there are a great deal of definitions concerning what are spiritual gifts, depending on where you find them, when you believe they are active (i.e. dispensationalism), or who you happen to be reading.

So I started a different angle: a quote I found from John Piper on the Internet:

“The conclusion I draw from these parallels is this: a spiritual gift is an expression of faith which aims to strengthen faith. It is activated from faith in us and aims for faith in another. Another way to put it would be this: A spiritual gift is an ability given by the Holy Spirit to express our faith effectively (in word or deed) for the strengthening of someone else's faith.”

Now there's a definition I can start with. If you dig a little more into reading, you find some additional thoughts:

1) A spiritual gift is not necessarily a skill or talent. It is something that is supernaturally given, something given only to those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. You can have individuals who are supremely talented, but are not spiritually gifted.

2) A spiritual gift is not given for the benefit of an individual, but the benefit of the body. If someone is using a gift to glorify themselves rather than build up the body, I would be suspect of their claim as a "spiritual" gift.

3) There are aspects of spiritual gifts which we should all manifest: e.g. we should all have faith, show mercy, give generously, serve, be evangelists, etc. It's just that some are spiritually gifted above and beyond such as George Mueller or Hudson Taylor, (Faith), Billy Graham (Evangelism), any of the great teachers that have existed through the ages (Teaching/Pastor).

The major New Testament passages for spiritual gifts occur in Romans 12: 6-8, 1st Corinthians 12: 7-10, Ephesians 4: 11-12, and 1st Peter 4: 10-11. In no particular order they are: ministry (helps), prophesy/proclaiming, giving, knowledge, wisdom, exhortation, leading (administration), mercy, faith, discerning of spirits, evangelism, pastor, and teaching. Other verses include celibacy, hospitality, missionary, martyrdom, and voluntary poverty.

(You'll notice I've excluded healings, tongues and interpretations of tongues, and prophecy as predicting the future, and apostleship. I'm of the opinion [with some other people much smarter than I] that these represent gifts that were given to the early church to authenticate its authority but are no longer active per se as spiritual gifts. Yes, God still heals and yes, he can still do tongues; however I question how these are used today versus how they were used by the early church.)

At least one place I found online also included music and writing (two which I actually think I do have). It was interesting because that was not something that is found up in the above list (well, maybe writing as teaching, perhaps), but certainly music is something which the church has benefited from throughout its history (if you've ever had bad music, you'll understand!). The references they made to music being an spiritual gift were in the Old Testament (which I think you could pull some other ones out of as well).

(Here is where I took the test. I make no claims for accuracy or veracity; however, it was a useful tool to start my thinking processes.)

So let's assume that music and writing are 1) legitimate spiritual gifts; and 2) I actually have them. Then the question becomes "How am I using them to build up the body of Christ?"

Music is easy - at least, it was. Moving has certainly changed that dynamic temporarily. I need to get re involved - in some fashion with music.

Writing is harder. Hard, you say? Yes, not so much because I don't like to write, but because I want writing to do something for me, rather than my first impulse to be something to build up the body. In my heart of hearts, I want writing to support me, to glorify me, to demonstrate my wit and erudition - and oh yes, of course to glorify God.

This, it seems to me, is the difficulty of spiritual gifts: when we become so enamored of us because of the gift rather than being enamored of the Giver who gave us the gift and blown away that we would be of any use at all. When I start saying that I am a writer blessed of God (the same as you will hear individuals claim they are a "Prophet of God" or a "Healer of God" and expect you to treat them accordingly), then I have stepped away from the exercise of the gift to build up the body and am confiscating the use of the gift for my own ends. God says He will give spiritual gifts (we all have at least one!) and that we are to exercise them; He makes no guarantee that we will be recognized or rewarded for them this side of Heaven.

What's your spiritual gift? Are you using it? How often?

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