Summary: At Pentecost God sent his Holy Spirit, for the first time, to remain in believers forever. Since the Holy Spirit manifests through each believer, we cannot say "I don't have anything to offer." We also can't take the credit, since God does the work.
God’s Creative Work in the Church
Today, local church membership has lost its appeal. Why bother? Why not drift from church to church and see what meets my needs? Back in the beginning, though—before church buildings and budgets and board meetings—church membership at its simplest was about belonging. In fact, did you know that our broader society’s concept of “membership” comes from the Bible? Today everybody uses the term. Months before I turned 50, I received a letter in the mail inviting me to become a member of AARP. (How did they know my age?) For my VA work, I belong to a couple of professional chaplain organizations. Membership as a concept dates back to the Bible with Paul’s picture of the church as a human body, one body with many members. Each member belongs to the body, and each member is essential to the body.
This is not just lip service. On Pentecost, God sent his Spirit for the first time into believers to remain in them for the rest of their lives. And, as we heard in today’s scripture, the Holy Spirit supernaturally manifests—or shines through—the life of each believer to build up the body of Christ and to glorify God.
Usually in my sermons I suggest what to do, but when it comes to this spiritual giftedness, I want to suggest what NOT to do. There are two attitudes you need to avoid, two things not to do. First,
1. Don’t put yourself down. Sometimes we feel like the very last third grader to be chosen for the kickball team in PE. We wonder if we have any value at all: to our friends, to our family, to our church, and to our God. Maybe we compare ourselves to others: “I can’t sing like ___ ... I can’t play like ___ ... I don’t have the energy level of _____ ... I can’t entertain like ___ ... I don’t know the Bible as well as ____.” All of that may be true. But so what? What does God’s word say? Does the Bible say God only gifts certain people to do his work? Does today’s passage say, “Now to ‘some members’ the manifestation of the Spirit is given”? No, verse 7 says, “Now to ‘each one’ the manifestation of the Spirit is given.” You are one of the “each ones,” so God’s Spirit manifests through you. Now if we believe that the Holy Spirit is in us, we can no longer truthfully say, “I don’t have anything to offer.” If you are a Christian, the Holy Spirit has supernaturally gifted you to serve in some way a need of the church body.
A story from the French Revolution illustrates a passion to use one’s giftedness. Three Christians were sentenced to die by guillotine. One Christian had the gift of faith, the other had the gift of prophecy, and the third the gift of helps. The Christian with the gift of faith was brought forward first. He was asked if he had any last words, so he said, “I have faith that God will deliver me.” Well, they pulled the rope but the blade didn’t fall. The executioners were in awe, as they took this as an act of God, so they quickly freed the man.
The Christian with the gift of prophecy was next. They asked him, too, if he had anything to share. He replied, “I predict that God will deliver me.” Again, the rope was pulled and nothing happened, and the executioners were amazed and freed him immediately.
Then they brought in the third Christian, with the gift of helps. When asked if he had anything to say, he looked up at the blade and then replied, “Yeah, I think I just found the problem with your guillotine.” (https://www.cybersalt.org/clean-jokes/spiritual-gifts)
OK, that’s a silly example. But let me give you a real-life example of a spiritual gifting. I don’t believe I could preach without the power of the Holy Spirit: helping me study, develop simple outlines, write a manuscript, and deliver the message in a way that will hold attention. Did you know I used to be afraid of preaching? If you would have told me in my 20s I would be doing this weekly and enjoying it, I would say you were nuts. God’s Spirit enables us to do things we cannot do on our own.
And God’s Spirit works through us, not for our glory but for the common good. If you don’t discover what you’re good at and use it to honor God, our church family and the wider Blue Skies East community will miss out on a blessing of God. God knows exactly what each church needs, so we should watch the people God adds to the body to see how God may shape our mission. If you don’t use your gift, the church is like a jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing. It’s irritating! It’s frustrating! It’s incomplete! Everybody matters. Everybody counts!