Sunday, 25 October 2015

Grace to Serve ~ Ganeida

Reading: 1 Corinthians 12.

Serving Grace.

I promised that this week we would look at Grace to Serve because our God is not a God of disorder but of peace.  Amen. 1 Cor 14:33  So there is an internal logic to the way God goes about things & one of the ways The Spirit leads us is to give us peace in our hearts no matter our circumstances.

Now we understand that there are certain things all believers are commanded to do: to preach the gospel; to pray; to live righteously etc

In 1 Corinthians 12 we are given a list of gifts:
first are apostles,
second are prophets,
third are teachers,
then those who do miracles,
those who have the gift of healing,
those who can help others,
those who have the gift of leadership,
those who speak in unknown languages.

And in Romans 12:6-8 we are given a slightly different perspective: In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly.

Corinthians is a very good book to look at when thinking about gifts & service because they were  a very gifted church but ~ they were out of order. Paul had to write & correct them.  In Ephesians 4 he says something very pertinent.  Verse 11 Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. 
Please note: These gifts are given to the church ~ not just to individual believers & they are given for a very specific purpose: to equip God’s people.

This is the very first thing.  God has a set order. One of the jobs of church leaders is to help believers use their gifts properly for the kingdom of God.  We all know & have heard of believers who won’t come under their proper authorities & cause all sorts of confusion in the body of Christ because they are exercising their gift at everybody else’s expense~ prophets who won’t subject their words to the scrutiny of the leadership; Teachers pushing a doctrine their church does not endorse; people who insist that a church does this that or the other even though that might not be the leadership’s vision for that particular church at that particular time.

Think about the order of leadership for just a moment.  First are apostles.  Why?  Because they are the sent ones ~ the church planters; the ones who begin a new work & often it is hard & unrewarding & when it begins to grow & bear fruit they are called to somewhere new.

Next are the prophets.  Why?  Primarily a prophet is a preacher of the word but often they will be visionaries.  They carry the vision God gives to any particular church & part of their job is to align the people with the work God has for them ~ & train them up!  They may be rather difficult people ~ I mean just look at our examples in the bible.  Their primary gifting is unlikely to be pastoral either.

Next are teachers…I think you see where I am going with this.  Every single person down the chain of command must align themselves with the Holy Spirit & subject themselves to the overall vision God has for any particular church.  If they don’t do this you end up with a church where everyone is off doing whatever seems right in his own eyes & there is no cohesion.

We know this. We know churches where this has happened.  And we know people!    This is where Grace comes in.  This is our third week now on Grace & so we should be familiar with certain things about Grace.  It is a gift from God.  It is God’s unmerited favour.  It is closely related to joy & to the charismatic gifts.  It is sometimes the word used to refer to a monetary gift.

So what does grace mean when we talk about serving?

Eph 3:7 By God's grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News.

Eph 3:2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you,

Romans 3:5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe--as the Lord has assigned to each his task

So know this: if you have been called to serve [& we have all been called to serve], in whatever capacity, there is grace available for you.  Here is the thing though; the grace you need will most likely not be for the operation of the gift, whatever that is.  That is because the gift is already part of God’s Grace to you Romans 11:29 for the gifts & calling of God are irrevocable.  As we saw when we looked at the root word of grace it includes favour, joy & the charismatic gifts. Even if you have been asked to do something you would not normally do, if you are being led by the Holy Spirit you will have peace in your heart &  a quiet confidence from knowing it is God working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Phil 2:13 That is grace.

Look again at Eph 3:2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you… What is the grace given for?  For dealing with the people! I do not think Paul was an easy man.  I do not think, in the natural, he was either a kind or a forgiving man.  Think about what he was before Damascus.  However he was given grace to deal with God’s people! Didōmi means to supply.  He was given a supply of grace to deal with the people!  What he did with that grace was his responsibility but it was available for his use.

When we talk about grace to serve we are talking about empowerment. 2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, · for my power is fulfilled in weakness… Here charis & dynamis are tied together.  It does require co~operation with the Holy Spirit but when we are weak & humble God’s grace empowers us. Pride always, always blocks the working of God in our lives. If nothing else, if we are proud we think we can do it in our own strength & that’s what we do!

Now Grace is not some ethereal woo~woo hoodoo do~da~di what’sit.  Like holiness, or righteousness or any other characteristic in the bible it is very concrete & it has a very concrete application.  This is why we spend so much time defining our terms when we start.  We don’t land with some vague wishy~washy idea of what God is talking about. We nut out the various meanings so that we understand their meaning in context. Remember we saw how the root word chairō can mean a number of things: favour, yes, but also joy, giving or a part of the charismatic gifts.  And yes, I will keep saying the same thing over & over because that way you will remember it!

God is not in the business of asking us to do the impossible without giving us the tools we need.  Grace is a tool. Thus Grace can be acquired & we know from Peter it can be multiplied. 1  Peter 1:2 Grace & peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God & Jesus our Lord.

So if Grace is a tool how can we acquire it? Is there something we can do?  How is it multiplied?  Remember that today I am talking specifically about grace to serve, not saving grace or standing grace.  Thus we are looking specifically at grace in relation to gifts given both to individuals & the church body for use in serving God through others. No believer is ungifted so all of us need grace to utilise our gift for the glory of God.

Point 1.  2nd Timothy 2:1 Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. I will point out the obvious & say this is an instruction, that it is something we are to do. Paul is not saying here that God is just going to rain some ethereal thing down on us.

Look at Ephesians 6:10 Finally, my brethren be strong in the Lord, & in the power of His might.

Ok, Grace is in Christ but where is Christ?  Christ is seated at the right hand of God, the place of authority.  He has given us His Spirit to actually reside in us. In other words one of the things Paul is saying here is that we must be strengthened inwardly ~endunamou [strengthened] means to be strengthened inwardly by Christ, through His Holy Spirit.

Point 2 We have Christ’s Spirit & have been given His name to wield His authority on earth so we can access grace through one of 2 ways.  Firstly through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit operating in our lives.  Eph 3:6 I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit. Some versions read *The Inner Man.* This would equate with 2 Cor 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

Secondly 1 Cor 14:4 tells us that praying in tongues edifies us ~ oikodomeō implies the construction of something, to build something up. Jude 20 says exactly the same thing. Remember we already have a close correlation between grace & the charismatic.

Point 3.

The third way we can grow in grace is through knowledge. 2 Peter 3:18 exhorts us to grow in the grace & knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.  When you know something is true you are not going to be blown about by every wind of doctrine that comes your way.  You are going to be firmly established & thus able to serve with a confident heart.
There are 2 types of knowledge & when it comes to serving grace both are important.  You must know who the Bible says you are in Christ & what He can do for you & you must have the sort of personal relationship with Him that has experiential knowledge of His power working in you. Ephesians has a prayer we often pray ~ that we be filled with spiritual wisdom & understanding. Why? So that we might know the exceeding greatness of His power towards us.  His grace operating in & through us!

If we can have more of something we can ask for it ~ but that only works if we have met any prerequisite requirements. This is very true of grace to serve.  Many Christians do many good works & they are going to be astonished when those works go up like straw in God’s cleansing fire.  God always clearly sets out His standards & requirements for anything He asks of us.  This is as true of service for Him as for anything else. We need His grace ~ if for no other reason than it keeps us humble.  We cannot boast when it is God working in us & not we ourselves.

We need God’s supernatural power working in our lives.  Our fallen humanity is not ever going to impress anyone but the power of God working in us with the Living Word of God ~ Now that is impressive! Remember Mark 16:17 promises the believer this supernatural power.  This is God’s grace working unto salvation ~ but also in serving that the unsaved might believe & also enter into God’s Kingdom. 

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