We begin this new series on spiritual gifts with a well-known illustration.
Jesus has just returned to heaven after his crucifixion and resurrection. The angelic host greets him. Gabriel wonders what will happen next, asking,
“Master, what’s your plan? What have you done about telling the world that you died for, that you have died for them? What’s your plan?”
The Lord responds,
“I asked Peter, and James and John, and some more of them down there just to make it the business of their lives to tell others, and the others are to tell others, and the others, and yet others, and still others, until the last person in the farthest circle has heard the story and has felt the thrilling and the thralling power of it.”
With an insight into the stuff we are made of, Gabriel then asks,
“What if Peter, James and John, and the others get so busy about other things that they do not tell others—what then?”
To which the Lord Jesus replies,
“I have no other plan.”
I have adapted this fictional scene from S. D. Gordon’s Quiet Talks on Service. Granted, it makes an important point, but it is flawed in at least two ways. We begin with the two flaws.
Our opening scene might leave us with the impression that all the work has been left to us “down here.” That is not so.
Make no mistake; God is at work.
God works in creation. Psalm 19:1 tells us,
the heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands
God is also at work in redemption—reclaiming His creation. Again, the Psalmist proclaims that (74:12):
God is my king from of old,
Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.
In case we are not convinced, Jesus declares that “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” (John 5:17)
God is at work reclaiming His creation.
The illustration also presumes that we have been left on our own “down here.” That is not so.
Jesus’ Farewell Address (John 13-16) introduces us to the paraklētos—the Holy Spirit, who indwells every follower of Jesus. We explored this subject in “5 Roles of the Indwelling Spirit.”
One helpful definition of the Greek word paraklētos is “the intimate presence of God with his people,” thus combining all the concepts of counselor, helper, comforter, advocate, and much more.
Jesus also concludes the Great Commission with these words (Matthew 28:18-20):
Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.
God is present in each of His people.
Gordon’s illustration powerfully conveys that God calls His people to engage in His great work of reclaiming His creation—but not on our own.
In John 14, Jesus says,
Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. (14:10)
The Father was living in His Son, Jesus Christ, and doing His work.
In the same kind of way, the Holy Spirit lives in each of His people and desires to do His work through them—through you and me. As we shall see, this requires that we cooperate with the Spirit and His work.
The Gospel of Mark ends with these words (16:20):
Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.
As further confirmation, take time to read the book of Acts. Notice how the Spirit of God is working in and through His people to accomplish His work.
In The Mission of God, Christopher Wright defines the Christian mission this way:
Fundamentally, our mission (if it is biblically informed and validated) means our committed participation as God’s people, at God’s invitation and command, in God’s own mission within the history of God’s world for the redemption of God’s creation.
How can you participate with God in His mission?
Here are three basic recommendations:
a. Examine yourself.
The apostle Paul writes,
Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? (2 Corinthians 13:5)
I recommend that you read and ask: “Does the Holy Spirit Live in You?”
You will also find a link in that article to the “the Four Spiritual Laws.”
Make sure before God that “you are in the faith.”
b. Equip yourself.
Again, Paul states:
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
A little later in the same letter, he writes:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man [or woman] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (3:16-17)
In this series, you will be further equipped to discern how God has gifted you and what He wants you to do.
c. Commit yourself.
We can also desire God and cooperate with Him in His work (Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Hebrews 11:6; etc.).
Why not meditate on these verses, and let them lead you into prayer—your heart’s desire?
Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
(Psalm 37:4-6; also Proverbs 3:5-6)
Will you join with God in His work to reclaim His creation?
In the next post, we will discover seven characteristics of spiritual gifts.
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