Sermon Video: Saved People Serve People

God wants to do a great work in you! You may or may not believe that, but it’s true. And, the word he wants to do IN you is not for your mere enjoyment alone – it’s so that you can impact the world AROUND you. In this first message in our new InsideOut series, we scratch the surface of what it means for God to want to pour his truth, grace, love, and power into our lives to prepare us to make a difference by serving others.

My speaking notes…

Saved People Serve People: ?How to Grow From Consumer to Contributor

On March 5, 1995, I was reading Jeremiah 1:5 and KNEW in that moment God had shaped me and prepared me for a life of preaching ministry. It didn’t seem to make any sense at the time, but I trusted the Spirit of God and have had a sense of deeply humbling gratitude ever since.

Jeremiah 1:5 MSG
Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you: A prophet to the nations — that’s what I had in mind for you.


BIG TRUTH: Before you were ever born, God knew how he could use YOUR life in HIS big mission for the world — saving people into his family — and he is inviting you to join him in what he is already doing around you.

God is in the business of using ordinary people to do extraordinary things!

2 Timothy 1:6-14
5 I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you. 6 This is why I remind you to fan into flames the spiritual gift God gave you when I laid my hands on you. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.
8 So never be ashamed to tell others about our Lord. And don’t be ashamed of me, either, even though I’m in prison for him. With the strength God gives you, be ready to suffer with me for the sake of the Good News. 9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 10 And now he has made all of this plain to us by the appearing of Christ Jesus, our Savior. He broke the power of death and illuminated the way to life and immortality through the Good News. 11 And God chose me to be a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of this Good News.
12 That is why I am suffering here in prison. But I am not ashamed of it, for I know the one in whom I trust, and I am sure that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until the day of his return.
13 Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me—a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus. 14 Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard the precious truth that has been entrusted to you.

What God wants to do IN you…

  • To put people in your life.
  • To pour his truth into your life.
  • To give you a spiritual gift.
  • To give you courage and boldness.
  • To give you the ability to love him and others.
  • To help you become holy like him.
  • To show you his grace when you mess up.

What God wants to do THROUGH and AROUND you…

  • To use you to bring others into his family.


Generosity, Empowered by the Holy Spirit

Spirit-driven GenerosityAnyone can give. And most people do, to one degree or another. But for Christians, there is a whole new level of generosity that can be opened when we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. Paul challenged the Corinthian believers, Since you excel in so many ways—in your faith, your gifted speakers, your knowledge, your enthusiasm, and your love from us—I want you to excel also in this gracious act of giving. (2 Corinthians 8:7 NLT)

Paul knew that the Corinthian Church had indeed demonstrated great giftings in the areas that are public-facing. They had great speakers and an attractive flair to their worship services, but he challenged them to think deeper and consider the more difficult side of faith – what about your giving?

And as he challenged them, he made the connection between spiritual gifts and giving. Just as you demonstrate these spiritual gifts, so you should demonstrate the spiritual gift of generosity as well. There are plenty of easy ways to serve God that require little in the way of sacrifice or cost, and then there are those few ways that demand something more of us – like giving out of what we planned on enjoying or using to provide for ourselves.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the ever-giving, unbelievably generous God. He gave. He gives continually. He will never stop giving.

God Gives the Very Best Gifts

Nice GiftAre you a child of God? Then He has gifted you! There are no superhero saints who leap tall buildings in single bounds. Instead, there are believers who become super servants because they value the gifts God has given them. The Bible says,

It is the one and only Spirit who distributes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have.

– 1 Corinthians 12:11 (NLT)

Spiritual gifts are a subject that the church has ignored at times and sensationalized at others. For some reason, they’ve even become a source of unnecessary controversy. Here are the facts, as I interpret them from the New Testament…

  • Every believer has been gifted for ministry by the Holy Spirit.
  • A spiritual gift is not a talent that comes naturally but an ability that comes supernaturally.
  • We don’t choose our gift – our sovereign God does.
  • Our gifts are intended for the benefit of the whole body of Christ.
  • His gifts bring unity rather than division and peace rather than confusion.

How do you discover your spiritual gifts? There are tests and surveys, but most are flawed. The best way is to serve and get involved. Your giftedness will become apparent to you and others if you’re willing to love people with your gifts.

Don’t ignore your gifts, and don’t sensationalize your gifts. Instead, serve others and allow your giftedness to become clear as you do. And remember, God gives the very best gifts!

photo credit: minxlj

How To Discover Your Spiritual Gifts

ShapedEvery believer in Jesus has been granted abilities that are empowered by the Holy Spirit. We are all born with various talents, but spiritual gifts are given to us when we become a Christian. The seeds of those gifts are often evident from birth, but the Holy Spirit empowers believers for ministry in supernatural ways.

In one sense, spiritual gifts are overrated. What I mean is that we often fail to examine the other aspects of how God has shaped us for His purposes. He has also given us passions, talents, a unique personality, and both positive and negative experiences from which to draw. In another sense, spiritual gifts are underrated in the sense that we allow our feelings of personal inadequacy to convince us that we couldn’t possibly be “gifted” even though the Scriptures explicitly state that we are.

Spiritual gifts are by no means a simple subject. There are plenty of beliefs and opinions about the subject. Cessationists believe that certain “sign gifts” (such as speaking in tongues) were for a season of the early church only, and now have ceased. Continuationists believe that all of the gifts named in the Bible continue today. Then there are different evaluations of the various “lists” of gifts named in Scripture.

Romans 12:6-8 1 Corinthians 12:29-30 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 Ephesians 4 1 Corinthians 12:28
prophecy  apostles  word of wisdom  apostles  apostles 
ministry  prophecy  word of knowledge  prophets  prophets 
teaching  teaching  faith  evangelists  teachers 
exhortation  miracles  healing  pastor-teacher  miracles 
giving  healing  miracles  healings 
ruling  tongues  prophecy  helping 
showing mercy  interpreting tongues  discerning of spirits  governing 
kinds of tongues  diverse tongues 
interpreting tongues 

Let me point out an important word of clarification about the above lists. I’ve included all of them for the sake of being thorough, but some of the “gifts,” such as apostle, prophet, evangelist, and pastor-teacher are actually gifted people given to the church, not gifts given to people.

Furthermore, one reason why cessationists and continuationists can’t get along is because we feel we have to number the lists and define an exact set of gifts by those named in Scripture. But in the passages mentioned, it doesn’t seem to me that the Apostle Paul was trying to nail down an exhaustive list but rather was offering up examples of gifts. In other words, there could certainly be other gifts not included in the New Testament verbiage.


Why I Don’t Care for Spiritual Gifts Tests

Call them tests, surveys, or assessments. I’m not font of most of the existing diagnostic tools available to help people determine their gifts. I have several reasons why…

  • Spiritual gifts tests will always be written according to the particular viewpoint of the test creator, using the lists of gifts defined in the author’s mind as definitive.
  • Explanations and definitions of gifts vary from one test to the next.
  • Questions written for gift tests are written against the backdrop of the modern church context and current ministry trends, which change from age to age.
  • We tend to take tests according to what we’re thinking and feeling at the moment. I’ve taken a dozen of these tests over the years and the results change each time, depending on what I’m passionate about.
  • We tend to want perfect knowledge about perfect gifts described in God’s perfect word by submitting to rather imperfect, man-made assessments.
  • And the biggest reason of all… spiritual gifts alone present an incomplete picture of the particular ministry ability God has given to a beleiver.

Is there a better way? How can you discover your spiritual gifts and put them into action? How in the world did any believer ever serve God before the first spiritual gifts test was produced a few decades ago?

Study the Scripture

Dig into the passages mentioned above and read the contexts of the gifts named so that you’ll understand the purpose and scope of spiritual gifts. Also study how gifted people served. You’ll probably notice that most of the apostolic-era believers jumped in and started ministering without much mention of any process of discovering their gifts beforehand.

Look at the Bigger Picture – Your God-given SHAPE

The SHAPE acronym has been around for a while now, and I think it’s a highly valuable piece of evangelicalism. SHAPE is an acronym that summarizes five aspects of how God has wired us to serve. It stands for:

  • S – Spiritual Gifts.
  • H – Heart, which refers to our God-given passions and interests.
  • A – Abilities, which can often include non-spiritual, natural gifts.
  • P – Personality – the unique ways we think and relate to the world around us.
  • E – Experiences, both positive and negative, that provide us a context from which to empathize with and minister to others.

If you look at spiritual gifts alone, you’ll probably conclude that only those with the gift of teaching should be teaching the Bible to anyone. But when you look at the bigger picture, you’ll realize that someone with the gift of mercy can certainly teach others, from their personal experience, how to be more merciful.

In other words, gifts alone don’t determine what we can do for God in a fulfilling way.

Talk to Wise Believers

Often the best way to determine how we are shaped to serve is to ask other believers who have had an opportunity to observe our lives and who can usually affirm things about us that we may not realize ourselves. I also think we serve best alongside others in a mutually-sharpening, discipling relationship.

Before I joined the staff of Saddleback Church, I went through a “theological interview” with Erik Rees, author of S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life. In fifteen minutes, Erik was able to spot tendencies in my own heart and make accurate predictions about how I would feel in my ministry role six months later. He was right, and it was a positive learning experience.

Answer the Big “What If” Question

If you could do anything for God knowing that resources wouldn’t be a problem and with a guaranteed of success, what would it be? Usually how we answer that question can propel us in the right direction. Don’t stress about what your gift is, jump into something that appeals to you.

Jump In and Get Your Feet Wet

In other words, begin serving. Many churches make it difficult to get out of a particular ministry role once we’re in it, which unfortunately usually leads to burnout, frustration, and confusion. We should be able to serve in a variety of areas on a short term basis until we discover that place that really fits with who we are. And we’ll grow through this process of “trial and error” as we understand ourselves better.

Perhaps this is the crux of the issue. God has shaped you for significance and service. So launch out today, get started, and be flexible along the way allowing God to tweak your plans until you find that sweet, satisfying, kingdom-expanding and Christ-exalting niche for which you are divinely wired.

Graphic by Marian Trinidad via CreationSwap

The Gift Conspiracy

Gift Bags I’m convinced there is a vast shower gift conspiracy operating in our culture. Think about it. For a wedding shower, she has all the fun. Nobody buys the sweet “couple” golf clubs or pocket knives. And then the babies, the poor little babies. They don’t get anything fun – it’s all about Mom! What a sham!

Here’s the funny thing… God is behind this conspiracy! The Bible says that every believer has been giving some special ability by the Holy Spirit, and that we are given these gifts not so that we can look or feel good, but wholly for the benefit of… others! I hope you sense my sarcasm. This is the nature of God’s gifts, and if you want to enjoy life, you’re going to have to forget about all the benefits you want to receive and start thinking about your relationship to other people.

Continue reading The Gift Conspiracy