We are God’s workmanship!
How do you feel about yourself – do you like who you are? Are you gifted? Are you an introvert or an extravert, an optimist or a pessimist – a little of both? Are you clever, cute, bright, smart, talented, special, beautiful, handsome – all of the above – or maybe the opposite? In our world if you’re one of the beautiful people then it’s all yours – if not?
So many children are growing up thinking that they have no value unless they can be certain things or do certain things or get to a certain level of life. Every day in shopping centres you can see at least one of the reasons… parents who abuse their kids emotionally and mentally, using every name they can think of, and a few we’d rather not. In western culture we worry so much about smacking or caning or other forms of physical punishment – but in my experience many more children suffer to a far greater degree from emotional and mental abuse (without for a moment excusing or condoning any form of physical abuse). So many people can’t get a handle on their life because parents never told them how much they were loved, how special they were, how wonderfully they were made.
Do you know – regardless of how we see ourselves, or how our parents or other important people see us – God sees us as his workmanship – wonderfully made.
Psalm 139:14 “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
And as David goes on to say in the Psalm not just wonderfully made but created from the very start, known to God from before the very beginning of time and creation, and woven together in the womb with God watching over his creation. As we read in Ephesians…
Ephesians 2:10a “For we are God’s workmanship…”
Maybe that’s easy to see – if you’ve watched the program called “The Body” it’s hard to imagine how you can’t see. For many of us God creating and working his magic in this world is the only possible answer – the human body is just too amazing, as is the world and the universe. But there’s more to it than just our bodies, or the wonder of life.
Ephesians 2:10 “…created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Whatever the opinion of this world, whatever we have been lead to believe about ourselves, good or bad, God says that having become his children in Jesus, having trusted in Christ for salvation and moved from being God’s enemies to being God’s friends, he has remade us in Christ so that we can now start to fulfil his original design. We were created from scratch to do good works that God prepared for us before we were even a twinkle in our parent’s eyes. This is about how we fulfil the mission God has given us – how the church fulfils its mission in this world. I like to use Ephesians 4 as a guide for the life of the church – not the only one but I really like this.
Ephesians 4:12-13 “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”
That’s God’s plan! And God has given us the means to carry it out – not one or two people able to fulfill his plans – but churches full. It is not the few who are wonderfully made and who are God’s workmanship – it is all – everyone – all creation. Every person is made to perfectly match God’s plans – in fact created in the image of God – made with purpose. So we read in 1 Corinthians…
1 Corinthians 12:1 “Now about spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be ignorant.”
Who is Paul writing to?
The whole church – the same as in Ephesians when he says we are God’s workmanship, the same in Romans when he says we have different gifts but one body. What does he says to the whole church about Spiritual Gifts?
1 Corinthians 12:2-3 “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to mute idols, however you were led. Therefore I want you to understand no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except in the Holy Spirit.”
What can we say about these Spiritual Gifts – without going further than the Scriptures do?
1. Spiritual Gifts Are Given To Glorify God
Paul sets the stage by declaring that the purpose of Spiritual Gifts is to glorify God – especially designed to help us declare Jesus is Lord over all other gods – the mute idols that Paul talks about. The Corinthians came from a pagan, idol worshipping background, where spiritual utterances and demonic activity were par for the course – the cultic priests claimed all sorts of spiritual powers. The way to know that the spiritual gifts of the church are real – is by what they declare! No one speaking by the Holy Spirit can curse Jesus – no one speaking without God’s Spirit can declare Jesus as Lord. When the chips are down and life is threatened – you will only declare Jesus as Lord by the power of God.
The real evidence of God’s presence is not the gifts and the power that we so often seem to associate with the Spirit. The real evidence is Jesus proclaimed as Lord. Whatever takes away from the glory of God, whatever tears down or destroys the unity of the church, or damages the name of Jesus, even if it appears to be legitimately from God’s Holy Spirit – if it does not glory God and proclaim Jesus’ name then it has no place in the church. This is how we will know the work of the Spirit amongst us. As we start to learn about the gifts themselves we see…
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit, and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord, and there are varieties of activities, but the same God empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
2. Spiritual Gifts Are Given For The Good Of All
How will we know that the gifts we exercise are from God?
By their fruit!
1 Corinthians 12:7 “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”
Just as we know a good fruit tree when we see one – the product tells us everything we need to know.
It’s not that everyone has to have the same gifts, or start at the bottom and work your way up to the top of the gifts pile. In fact there is an array of gifts given to the church – everything we need to fulfill God’s plans of maturity and growth for us – that is His promise to us.
2 Peter 1:3 “God’s divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.”
So many people believe that faith is a private thing and that you don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. Nothing could be further from the truth – not least that you don’t stick a light in a cupboard – how useless is that? Why become a Christian with gifts from God for the good of his people – the church – and then not use them? Faith is not private – it’s designed to be shared with all, as scary as that may be at times. Together Christians make up the body of Christ – arms, legs, back, head, shoulders, feet, heart, lungs, eyes, nostrils, hair follicles –
1 Corinthians 12:12 “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”
Together the body of Christ serves to strengthen and build up the whole body so that together the body matures. If there is one thing a body is designed to do it’s to work together for the common good. If your spleen goes on holidays for 6 weeks where does that leave you?
3. Spiritual Gifts are given as God determines
1 Corinthians 12:8-11 “To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit – gifts of healing by that one Spirit – miraculous powers – prophecy – distinguishing between spirits – speaking in different kinds of tongues – the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
In distributing the gifts of the Spirit God doesn’t listen to the world. Thank God!!!! (And yes – I really do mean that). The criterion is not wealth or cleverness, how beautiful or wonderful we are, how much people like us or how famous we are. God has given every Christian gifts of the Spirit according to his plan and designs – just as he determines, as he decides.
The danger the church faced for many centuries was that they taught that it was the professionals who were gifted by God to serve in the church – the priests, the monks and nuns and so on. They alone did God’s work and the job of the congregation was to be obedient, to fill the pews and provide the cash (I now the time to take up the offertory??!) J And back then if you did get involved in ministry it was helping the priest or doing the flowers or the food or raising money through fetes, or distributing food to the widows or the needy – all good stuff but from the churches point of view back then – not the main game. Sadly we still see the same thing in some churches – it’s hard to imagine how they justify it when the Bible is so blatantly clear that God gives gifts to all Christians for service and ministry. Every part is as important as any other; every ministry and servant is important and valuable.
The Sleeping Giant
So “How do we wake a sleeping giant” – not the fee-fie-foe-fum variety – rather the largest company in the world, with combined income and numbers Bill Gates would sell his soul for?
Every survey I’ve ever seen on ministry by people in the pews – not the paid staff of a church – suggests that most churches have less than 20% of people involved in the ministry of the church – it’s called the 20/80 rule and as far as I can tell it’s a pretty good indicator not only of ministry but of money, energy, time, support. And that is a sleeping giant!
Why do people in the church not get involved?
Too tired, worn out, busy in work and family?
Too scared, or afraid of mistakes, too young, too old?
Too immature, done too much already, not enough work to do in the church, don’t know what to do, can’t find a spot to serve, never had the opportunity, never took the opportunity, was cut down when I took the opportunity – badly burnt by past experiences?
All these may be true in your life – but let me say they don’t stack up too well as excuses.
If someone gives you a gift for your birthday or Christmas – what do you do with it? If you don’t open it what value does it have – and what does that say to the giver? You can admire the paper, read the card, and rattle the box to work out what it is – but while it’s wrapped it’s basically meaningless. The only way to deal with a present is to open it and use it.
It’s the same with God and his church – he has given gifts to every single person who belongs to him – if you tick the box “Christian” – “follower of Jesus” then you also tick the box “gifted by God for his church”. So what are you doing with it?
If you answer “nothing” what’s going on? Do you not believe God? He says he has given gifts to every person who is a Christian. So is he right or not? Have you tried and failed? Cause if you have I bet you have also said to a child to get back on a bike after falling off, or back on the horse, or suggested (or just thought) someone should face their fears?! Have you been cut down or unappreciated? Has your minister or another leader had a go at you for getting it wrong or not being very good or for failing? If so – give them a boot in the backside from me and tell them to support you as you try rather than having a go at you when you fail. And if you want to do something and are scared then ask for prayer and support – from minister, family, friends… get some training, do a course, get some practice in with someone you can trust, start small, volunteer to assist someone else who is doing it, give it a go. And if you have no idea what your particular gifts may be then ask for help and make sure your minister or leader gives it to you.
Around the world the evangelical church is growing – slowly, but faster than most churches. But imagine what would be happening if every single Christian used their gifts from God for the benefit of the church. Imagine your own church with the 80/20 rule reversed – if every person was using what God has given us to serve his people.
Churches should bloom not by the ministers’ energy or strength – such as they are – but by the enthusiastic use of the gifts God has given us – churches should be so committed to God’s plan that nothing could stop us using what God has given us.
The church should be able to tattoo this to our foreheads – that we are a church that is preparing…
Eph 4:12-13 “God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”