Sunday Message, May 1: Spirit Without Measure 1
Extravagant Gifts from Father, Son & Holy Spirit
Lord we pray that you would speak to us by your word: let it be rich in its anointing, deep in its fulness, and powerful in its application.
In this series we are seeking to open ourselves afresh to the difference the Holy Spirit makes, what He does, and how his unique touch creates the Body of Christ. I am into myth busting at the moment so let me start immediately: we have tended to talk as Christians about the Holy Spirit (and using weird titles like Holy Ghost has not helped) as if He is separated from the Body of Christ, and that he does His thing independently and that only special Christians, like Pastors, get His help but ordinary men and women can’t expect His gifts and presence because they are not holy enough. This is just not true: it’s a lie of the enemy of our soul and the sooner we realise it the better. When Jesus returned to the Father in what Christians call the Ascension, He and the Father released a part of themselves, the Holy Spirit, to continue the work of Jesus and to form His Body on Planet Earth. The Father, Son & Holy Spirit were totally one so all their combined creative energy went into this final stage in the story of the Redemption of God’s Children: Pentecost was the immediate result and mission impossible became mission possible as the daily increasing number of God’s people (followers of the way), were mobilised, gifted and graced to take the gospel of grace to the ends of the earth. Notice I don’t mention the Church, as it was simply a consequence of this mission not the reason for it!!
Now at the this point I must mention that some Charismatics seem to suggest that it all about the Holy Spirits work from Pentecost onwards and that the Father & Son are just bit
players: this is a most unhelpful assertion and one that clearly does not hold up to the evidence, nor accord with our understanding of the Trinity working in perfect harmony. Whilst the Holy Spirit’s work is unique in bringing gifts and graces, words and wisdom, prophetic insight and convicting grace, it is utterly linked to the Fathers purpose and the Son’s work.
Also at this point I must mention those who are wedded to an understanding of Priesthood or Ordination giving a chosen few selected by Jesus a Premier Division role in the Kingdom of God, whether as pope, cardinal, bishop, minister, priest or pastor, or any of the New Church equivalents! Now whilst it is preferable to have order in the Body of Christ, it is not good or helpful to have control and that religious control that has spoilt the beautiful Body of Christ since it was institutionised in the fourth century and still spoils it today. Whilst we need these people gifts to help form direct and shape the Body for its continuing mission we must never confine its development to a quasi-professional religious cast. Just focusing on Jesus leads to trying to live like Him without the power to do so and the understanding of the Big Story of God it all fits into.
But of course there are also those who reject the supernatural (that’s not going to happen in my church) work of the Holy Spirit, and hang loose to any direction from the Jesus shaped people gifts to the Church (it’s between me and God), and want to persuade us that we need simply to respond to God, the Father, in our own way. Privatised relationship, individually tailored is yours. Cutting out the Jesus angle is useful: for God can be whatever you want Him to be. Cutting out the Holy Spirit is also essential for I don’t want anyone telling me what to do, or who I could be.
Well I want to tell you this morning that if you want to see the Spirit without Measure operating in your life and once again filling and forming the Body of Christ then you must open
yourself up to the extravagant gifts that the Father, Son & Holy Spirit have given and still continue to give to the whole Body of Christ: not just one part of them but the whole package: so lets look at how Paul described that package right at the beginning of the Early Church. We will look at the seven natural or motivational gifts given by the Father, the five people or ministry gifts given by the Son, and the nine spiritual gifts given by the Holy Spirit, and you will hear my profound conviction that only when all are working in perfect harmony (like the Trinity) is the Body of Christ at its most effective and fruitful: Spirit Without Measure!! By the way: none of these lists are I think complete in that they are simply a starting point and Paul’s observation: there is no doubt a case to add others these days but for this morning I will stick to the ones mentioned.
So lets look first at the Fathers Gifts and for that we go to Romans 12: How does the Father manifest himself out of His world and into our world today? Answer through these natural or motivational gifts. In verse 3 Paul says to each is given a measure of faith, which I take to mean that to each human being at least one of these gifts is given. For the Jesus gifts you must be born again, for the Spirits gifts you must be filled with the Spirit, but for these natural fatherly gifts all that’s necessary is that you have been created by Him: that’s most everyone by the way (unless you are an alien)!! These seven gifts you will see all around you not just in Christians but in every human being. They are Serving (such people are always doing something for others and not shouting about it: they have grace to serve), Teaching (such people know truth from error, everything is logical for them, as I speak now they will be analysing me: they have been given grace to teach others), Leading (they have the ability to organise things, to get all involved, to make long range plans: they have been given grace to lead), Showing Mercy (that’s a real gift of relating to people’s ups and downs, sharing joy, weeping with
them, asking what’s wrong? They have been given grace to be merciful), Encouraging (they are always positive, affirming others, ‘you’re going to make it: they have been given grace to encourage), Prophetic (this is not the gift of prophecy but it is the grace to see things before they happen: grace to see beyond the immediate) & Giving (they are always generous and always focused on others rather than self: they have been given the grace of generosity). Every human being has one of these personality types because God has created each one of us and left his stamp upon us. We are all created in the image of God and have His fingerprint on us.
Now lets move to the Gifts Jesus brings: so how does Jesus come out of His world into our world to manifest himself: answer Jesus forms himself in this world by giving people gifts. People gifts because Jesus was a person!!
Apostles: who work across the whole Body of Christ pioneering new work, taking the gospel to new places and peoples, and giving the whole Church leadership to keep it Jesus shaped.
Prophets: who again work across the whole Body of Christ bringing God’s now word to His people to keep the Church faithful to its core task of being Jesus shaped.
Evangelists: who again work across the whole Body of Christ to bring the good news about Jesus and the offer of a renewed relationship through the cross with Father God. They want everyone to know Jesus and every aspect of His life and fullness.
Pastors: who whilst looking after defined groups of believers in congregations are always wanting everyone to look to and rely totally on Jesus and become more like Him.
Teachers: who help the whole Body of Christ to understand the gospel and tell their story with confidence to others. They also are gifted to refute error and keep the balance of grace and truth which is Jesus shaped.
So these precious people gifts are to equip you and me to look more like Jesus. So the Jesus gifts are given to form a Jesus shaped Body here on earth (John 3:30 I must decrease and He must increase). Such gifts are recognised by the Body and not claimed by the person.
Finally how does the Holy Spirit manifest Himself: through His gifts, which come from Him to you and me whenever we need them. He gives up nine specific gifts: Wisdom, Knowledge & Discernment (Gifts of revelation), Healing, Faith & Miracles (Gifts of power) & Prophecy, Tongues and interpretation (Gifts of inspired speech). So the Holy Spirit comes out of His world into this world so we can know how much God loves His people: when someone prophesizes, it is the HS speaking through a person so that you can hear him, when someone speaks in tongues, it is the HS expressing worship to the Father and to Jesus beyond mere words, and when there’s a word of knowledge that’s the HS telling me information that I have no other way of knowing.
Each of the nine gifts all for all Christians at all times but from experience I would suggest to you that they are given specifically as you and I stand outside the limits of our flesh and start to trust God, move by faith, and do the things that Jesus did: exciting stuff!
Let me recap: for the Holy Spirit gifts you need the fullness of the Spirit, for the Jesus gifts you need to be born again and for the Fathers gifts you just need to be created by Him. You will be at your most fruitful and most satisfied in your Christian life when you are moving in your gifts: by as said at the beginning the problem so often is the Church.
Churches who just use the Spiritual Gifts talk endlessly about the Holy Spirit and seek Revival, but when the new wine comes its all spilt, all the energy, expectation and excitement is wasted
because there is no wine skin to hold it (no organization or structure).
Churches who just use the Jesus Gifts change the Institution back into a Body: they manifest the Body of Christ and that’s good. But they hinge around the anointed preacher, evangelist or teacher. They equip everyone but they don’t include everyone. They are guru based and in the end they default to the guru not being Jesus.
Churches who just emphasize the Fathers gifts are well organised, have great admin and well run finances. They are great at delivering programmes but not a person: Jesus! They become dead institutions: the natural gifts only being emphasized.
What God wants is the fullness of the Godhead manifesting itself in the Body of Christ. He wants the 5 Fold Jesus gift ministries raised up in this hour, He wants the Holy Spirit to fill and work through all of us (Wine shaped into new wineskins), and all of this should be built on the natural gifts of the Father (Grace realised and quickened by the spirit) as a godly foundation.
Our God is an extravagant experiential God and He delights to give good gifts to His children: so why would we choose powerless and ordinary lives when we can receive the “Spirit without Measure” and have Jesus shaped lives and continue to be part of the unfolding Story of God.
May 1st 2011.