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Body Building
August 27, 1995


We're talking about body building this morning. As you can tell by looking at me, I'm really in to body building! Actually, however, body building is what I do as your pastor. My main task is to build the body of Christ. A strategy for building the body of Christ is to encourage you to discover your spiritual gifts and challenge you to use them to do God's work. This is the second sermon in a series of four on spiritual gifts. God gives each of you spiritual gifts so that the body of Christ may be strong, complete, and effective in doing God's work.

There are four scripture passages that describe spiritual gifts. Today we look at Ephesians 4:1-16. Paul begs the Ephesians to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called. I told the youths around the campfire at the Lodestar Work Project that God didn't make them to trash their lives. God made and called all of us to be the body of Christ. Lead a life worthy of God's calling. Be the person God created you to be. Do what God calls you to do. Being who God created you to be, and doi ng what God calls you to do, however, does not make you any better than anyone else. On the contrary, Paul goes on, live your lives with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

In order to be who God created you to be, and do what God calls you to do, each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ's gift. Christ gives the gift to you. Grace is not your doing; not because you are smart or talented or beautiful. Christ gives you gifts. Why? Not so you can feel superior, or warm and bubbly, or even blessed. The reason God gives you spiritual gifts is, v. 12, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ. Body building is the reason God gives us spiritual gifts. For the sake of God's work, for the sake of the church, to build up the body of Christ, God gives us spiritual gifts.

You may wonder what the sentences about ascending and descending mean. The verse quoted is from Psalms 68, which referred to Moses ascending Mount Sinai to receive the gift of the law. Paul reinterprets the psalm to apply to Christ. Ascending and descending reflect the science of the ancient world where the earth was seen as flat with a dome on top with heaven above, then the flat earth, and underneath, the lower parts of the earth.

Then Paul lists some of the spiritual gifts. Charles Bryant finds 32 spiritual gifts which he describes in his book, Rediscovering Our Spiritual Gifts. I'm excited about studying spiritual gifts, because it will revolutionize how we do our church work. We will wait on God to give gifts, and wait on you to discover your gifts, claim your gifts, and step forward to use your gifts to do God's work through our church. You will find this discovery exciting as well, because all of us like to learn more about ourselves. There is more to you than you probably realize. There is an adventure waiting for you as you step into new territory, seek new frontiers, and blaze a new trail into God's will. Some of you are falsely modest, and say, "Oh, I don't have any spiritual gifts." Don't shut yourself off. Be open, listen to the Holy Spirit. Some of you may claim you are too young, or you are too old, to be doing any work for God. But, many of the spiritual gifts are well within the ability of even shut-ins!

For example, let's look at the spiritual gift of prophecy. Prophecy was listed in the Corinthian passage last week, and in the Ephesians passage we are looking at today. Prophecy is the extraordinary ability to see, to understand, and even to predict. Prophecy in the Bible does not mean predicting the future, or foretelling. Prophecy in the Bible is forthtelling, rather than foretelling. The prophet tells it like it is. The prophet can warn the rest of us, "If you persist in doing what you are doing, this is what will happen." If you persist in eating fat, you will get fat, is a prophecy. Likewise, "if you do not do, this is what will happen." If we do not reach youth, our church will eventually die is a prophecy. The church needs prophets to tell us the consequences of what we are doing, or of what we are not doing. Who among us has the gift of prophecy?

A similar gift is the spiritual gift of discernment. From last week's passage, 1 Corinthians 12:10, Paul lists discernment of spirits. Not all spirits are good spirits. The spiritual gift of discernment is the extraordinary ability to know the difference between good and evil, right and wrong. They who have the gift of discernment can spot phonies. They can see through the facade we all put up. They with the gift of discernment can save the church a lot of trouble by pointing out, in love, those who are working for their own good, for their own gratification, following their own agenda, rather than God's agenda. There are many false spirits, false religions, false prophets. The bookstores are full of them, even the Christian bookstores. The church desperately needs the gift of discernment. Who among us has the spiritual gift of discernment.

Another spiritual gift which anyone of any age and any life circumstance can receive and use is the gift of tongues, listed in the Corinthian passage we looked at last week. This gift causes much controversy and confusion, even in the early church. In fact, one of Paul's reasons for writing to the Corinthians was because of the controversy and confusion caused by those who were given the spiritual gift of tongues. Perhaps a better title for this gift is prayer-praise language, where God is praised with wordless phrases or utterances, with what Paul calls sighs too deep for words. The Holy Spirit makes them intelligible.

Of the spiritual gifts listed in the Ephesian passage, we have time to look at only one this morning. Let's look at Teaching. Our Sunday School Superintendent, Mary Fran Rowe, tells me that we have two openings for the fall term. The Fifth and Grade Sunday School Class and the Senior High Sunday School Class both need teachers, individually or as teams. We like to use teams where teachers can work together and relieve each other. We also need people to work with Gwen Marshall in the Junior High Youth Fellowship and we need adult counselors with the Senior High Youth Fellowship. Taking spiritual gifts seriously means we believe God is giving the gift of teaching to some of you, and calling you to discover and exercise that gift.

The historic church has made a terrible mistake over the years by modeling the Christian education program after the public school. Teaching in the public school and teaching in the church are not the same. The goals are different, and the methods are different. The primary focus of secular education is to impart knowledge which is then evaluated by giving students periodic tests. But, Christian education is about relationships, not knowledge. Yes, of course, the Bible is taught; but the purpose of the teaching is to build a relationship between teacher and student, and relationships among students, in which the Holy Spirit is present, and through which the student hopefully develops a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

Many people are afraid to teach because they think they don't know enough about the Bible or theology. When the Holy Spirit does the teaching, both teacher and student learn from each other. A teacher with the spiritual gift of teaching loves the students, and identifies with the students on a personal level. They identify with the hurts, pains, aspirations, and hopes of the students.

I've often dreamed of starting a school, and follow the model used by Jesus, Plato and Socrates. The ratio between teacher and students would be 1-12! Wouldn't we taxpayers love that kind of ratio in a public school! The class would spend very little time in a classroom. The world would be the classroom. Jesus developed a relationship with his class. He took his class on hikes. He taught parables, lessons from life, from the environment. In my school, I would provide each teacher with a van to take the 12 students out into the world. What better way to study agriculture than to go to a farm, and perhaps pick some tomatoes, or almonds. Reading a book about swimming might give some background, but the best way to learn swimming is to get into the water. How about going to a bank to learn about money, learn about geology by finding rocks, and then reading about them in order to identify them. When studying Native Americans, I would take the class to Camp Lodestar where MiWuk Indians lived. They would find arrowheads, and see the grinding rocks where the MiWuks ground nuts into flour.

Learning by exploring and doing is why I am a great believer in camps and retreats. The Lodestar Work Project was a beautiful example of Christian education. Don Boehm was the foreman, and taught by example, and taught within the context of the task. The youths learned a great deal about digging, carrying dirt, building forms, laying cement, cooking food, washing dishes, cleaning rooms, and praying out loud on behalf of the group; but, more importantly, they developed relationships with one another, relationships with the adults, and hopefully deepened their relationship with Christ. That is Christian education at its best.

Who among us this morning has the spiritual gift of teaching, and is willing to experiment, to test the water, to get some training (which will be provided before Rally Day)? Who will stretch their wings, trust God, and fly? What are the qualifications? They who have the spiritual gift of teaching love God, are excited about growing closer to God, love people, care about people, and are ready and willing to get involved in their lives, to build relationships. Want to try? Speak to me or to Mary Fran Rowe.

We will continue spiritual gifts next week. Remember, God gives each of us, including you, spiritual gifts to do God's work for building up the body of Christ.

© 1995 Douglas I. Norris