Summary: Temptations to watch out for in using our spiritual gifts. How to avoid falling into these traps of Satan.

Iliff and Saltillo UM Churches

August 31, 2003

“Using Your Gifts Properly”

John 15:1-17

INTRODUCTION: During the month of August we have been talking about spiritual gifts--reminding us that each of us has been given at least one and usually more than one gift when we become a Christian. We have to identify those gifts, begin to unwrap them, and develop them. Today we will talk about how to use our gifts properly.

The Corinthian church was a very gifted church, but they used their gifts improperly causing a lot of conflict and divisions in the church. Paul was trying to teach the Christians at Corinth to use the gifts in a mature way by not going from one extreme to another. He was telling them, “use your gifts in a spirit of love one toward another.” He said, “don’t be puffed up but don’t bury your gifts either under a false sense of humility.” Some people will say, “I am nothing therefore I will just sit still and do nothing and others will go to the other extreme to show off in their gifts.” Either way is improper use. Some people will get up to sing a solo and say, “It is not me who is singing. It is the Lord.” No, it’s you but you are using the gift the Lord has given you. He is enabling you to do it.

Let’s see what we can learn today about the use of our spiritual gifts and how we can use them productively and in a way that pleases the gift Giver.

A. Improper Use of Our gifts:. When we begin to develop and use our gifts, there is a temptation to take off on our own rather than to be led by the Holy Spirit. This is what happened at the Corinthian church. There are three major temptations we must be on the lookout for and resist in order to avoid improper use of our gifts. Sometimes we are not aware of our actions and we are often blind to our motives and offensive ways.

Story: A little boy was shopping for a birthday gift for his mother and he was looking at cookie jars. He went from one cookie jar to the next carefully lifting the lid and replacing it. When he came to the last one he said, “Aren’t there any covers that don’t make any noise?”

Actually I think the gift was to be for his benefit rather than his Mothers. Our true motives are difficult to discern. We may lose sight of the purpose for spiritual gifts and our own selfish motives may take over.

1. Pridefulness in the use of our gifts: When spiritual gifts are used and wonderful results are experienced, Christians may be tempted to be PRIDEFUL in their use. Look how great I AM. Look how successful I AM. Sometimes you will notice this more in the more visible gifts or the ones that are more demonstrative. We must remember that as gifted believers we are merely the “CONDUIT” through which God’s power flows into the life of others. Paul told the Corinthians in I Cor. 3:5-7 that each person works to bring about the results--one planted the seed, one watered it, but it was God who made it grow. Verse 7 says, “But he who plants nor he who waters is anything but only God who makes things grow.”

We are the “CONDUIT” through whom the Spirit flows.

If we go off into prideful use of our gifts, we are headed for a fall. “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:16). Another scripture that gives us an idea about how the Lord feels about pridefulness is Proverbs 8:13 “To fear the Lord is to hate evil. I hate pride and arrogance, evil behavior and perverse speech.”

This kind of pride is different from telling someone, “I’m proud of you. You did a great job.” or of feeling a sense of pride in an accomplishment such as “I’m proud of achieving good grades or I’m proud of how my flower garden turned out.”

The kind of pride that God hates is similar to the prideful Pharisee in Luke 18:12 who stood up and prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get...”

Story: Two well-bred female AKC registered dogs were proudly strolling down the street with their noses held high in the air. Along came a big alley dog, a mutt. Embarrassed at being in the company of such a no-account dog, one of the dogs said, “We must go. My name is Miji, spelled M-I-J-I.” The other one said, “My name is Miki spelled M-I-K-I.” The alley dog put his nose up in their air also and said, “My name is Fido, spelled P-H-Y-D-E-A-U-X.” (1001 Humorous Illustrations, p. 278).

Someone once said, “The person who continually looks down his nose at others usually has the wrong slant.”

I Peter 5:5-9 tells us that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

“Humble yourselves under God’s mighty hand that he may lift you up in due time.”

Pride is the devil’s trademark and is originally what caused God to throw him out of heaven.

2. Jealousy--is another thing to watch for in the use of our gifts. Is there a particular spiritual gift you don’t possess of which you tend to be jealous? You might see God using another person in a gift and say, “that’s the one I wanted and I don’t know why he/she has been given it. They don’t live as good as I do. They are not deserving of it. I would be better qualified.”

Paul told the Corinthians “you are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?” He is telling them, you are acting like a baby Christian by being jealous over each other’s gifts and it is causing divisions and conflict in the church. Jealousy is very destructive in the use of our gifts.

3. Gift Glorification: The third thing to watch for is “gift glorification” which has three prongs to it.

1. exalting one gift above the other.

2. leading with gifts rather than the fruit of the spirit

3. loving the gifts above the Giver.

(1) Placing a higher value on one gift over the other is improper use because all are needed in the body of Christ. The speaking gifts and the serving gifts--the visible ones and the ones used more in the background. In I Corinthians 12:21 Paul tries to explain this through using parts of the body--he says, “The eye cannot say to the hand, I don’t need you. The head can’t say to the feet, I don’t need you.” Each part is needed and valuable if the body of Christ is to function properly.

(2) Some people use their gifts improperly by leading with the GIFTS rather than with the FRUIT of the Spirit. There is a difference between the GIFTS and the FRUIT of the Spirit. Some will have a tendency to use their gifts and run roughshod over other people. Paul talks about the necessity of the FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT when he says to use LOVE (one of the fruit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23) in the operation of the gifts toward others.

I Corinthians 13:1 he says, “if I speak in the tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge and if I have faith and can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing...”

If we have the fruit of the Spirit--love--in our use of the gifts we will not run roughshod over other people’s feelings, we will not horn in ahead of others who are trying to use their gifts, we will not brag about how much WE can do and how much better WE are,---it is like the scripture in Romans 12:10 “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love, in honor preferring one another.”

The NIV says, “Honor one another above yourselves.”

If someone is trying to exercise his/her spiritual gift let him/her do it. Don’t rush in ahead of him and try to show how good you are.

The fruit of the spirit--love--you are not going to be opinionated and argue with people insisting that you are totally right and they are totally wrong. You are not going to come up with a boatload of advice for people because you think you have been given the gift of discernment and you understand the ins and outs of their situation.

Story: Did you hear about the pastor who gave each of his parishioners a gift certificate worth four hours of free advice? (1001 Humorous Illustrations, pg. 163).

That was probably a gift they didn’t need.

Be sensitive toward others in the use of your gifts. Don’t be like a bull in a china shop that plows right ahead knocking others out of the way. Be in harmony with one another.

That is how you lead with the FRUIT --(love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control)--rather than with the GIFTS.

3. Loving the Gifts above the Giver: There is a tendency to do this when we think we have some important and powerful and influential gift. Acts 8:13 is an example of this. Simon the sorcerer got saved and was baptized. He followed Philip everywhere and saw the signs and miracles and he wanted to be able to do this too. He offered money and said, “Give me also this ability.” Peter said, “May your money perish with you because you thought you could buy the gift of God.”

Our focus is not to be on the GIFTS but on the GIVER. Gift glorification is a form of idol worship. We don’t want that.

B. How to Use our Gifts Properly: You might say if all of these temptations are involved, maybe I better just forget it. No, our scripture for today shows us how to be in the place where we can use our gifts properly and be productive as well.

John 15:1-17 tells us that Jesus is the Life Giving Vine and that we are the Branches. We need to make it a priority to be connected to the life giving vine so that we will bear the kind of fruit that is of value. If the life of Christ is flowing into us, we will find that we can be the “conduit” to others--his power flows through our gifts and abilities. We will not be as apt to do things on our own like a branch that would be cut off or separated from the source.

This scripture tells us that if we remain connected to our Source that we will bear MUCH fruit and that it will be good fruit that lasts.

1. We’ve got to be connected to Christ--the Source Jesus says he is the TRUE vine. The kind from which quality fruit will be produced.

2. God the Father is the gardener and the success rate of any crop depends on the skill of the gardener to properly cultivate and prune the vine and branches so it will yield a maximum crop.

3. As long as we remain in the Vine we are going to see our spiritual gifts produce good fruit. How do we know this?

Verse 16 says, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit--fruit that will last.”

CONCLUSION: You can use your gifts properly if you stay connected to the Source--Jesus and be aware of the temptations that Satan brings along to get you to use the gifts improperly.