SHAPE (1) - Spiritual gifts and abilities
- The amazing human body!
I want you to think for a minute about the wonder of the human body? Think for instance
about your bones – do you know that when you were born you had over 300 bones. Now as an adult you only have 206. But still 206 bones, it’s a lot isn’t it. Ranging in size from the femur in your thigh, which is about ¼ of your height, to the stirrup bone in your ear, which is about 1/10 inch long.
Or think about your muscles. Your body has over 630 muscles. Your face alone has over 30 muscles – making you smile, blink, open your mouth. The busiest muscles are the eyes, which may move more than 100,000 times a day. And all the muscles do is pull, they can never push – just contract and relax. Amazing isn’t it.
Or what about your brain? More incredible and complex than any supercomputer, yet weighs a mere 1.5 kilograms. Over 10 billion nerve cells in there, together with another 50 billion other sorts of cells. All work together to give us consciousness, thought, creativity.
And there is much more to your body besides bone, muscle and brain. It is a remarkable creation.
And what happens if one bone is broken? Or if one muscle snaps? Or you injure even a small part of your brain? What happens? The whole body feels it, and is less capable than it was before, at least until that part is mended.
Why am I talking about bodies? It is because the Apostle Paul says much about the body in his letters. Not so much about physical bodies, but about a different body. Did you hear it in that reading from 1 Corinthians 12? Listen again to v12 – READ.
2. Christ’s amazing body!
What body is Paul talking about? About Christ’s body. And so you would think at the end of v12 he would go on to talk about Jesus. But what is amazing are the next two words, which start v13 – for ‘we’.
What do ‘we’ have to do with Christ and his body? Paul is talking not about Jesus’ physical body, but the spiritual body of Christ, which is Jesus and his people. So listen to v13 again – READ. It is about us – we, those people who are Christians, people who have received the Holy Spirit, regardless of what nationality they are, or what social circumstances they are in, they are all part of Christ’s body, fed and nourished by his Spirit.
And this is not just at a universal level – the body of Christ is all Christians throughout time, but it is also strangely at a local level – so look at v27 – ‘you’ are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. Paul has moved in the same chapter from talking about ‘we’ as all Christians, to ‘you’ as he addresses the Christians at Corinth.
This body of Christ is made up not of muscles and bones and so on, but of people, of individual Christians. And that has significant implications for us. Let me just draw out 3.
- Implications - every Christian …
- Is part of Christ’s body
- Has an important part to play in this body
- Has a different part to play in this body
i. Every Christian is part of Christ’s body
Are you a Christian? Then you are a part of the body of Christ. Every Christian is – regardless of age, sex, nationality. What defines a Christian then? After all there are some dangerous cults around these days, there are people who claim to be Christian but aren’t, there are Christian churches who say that to be a Christian you must do this or that. What really defines a Christian? Paul answers that in vv1-3.
The Corinthians seem to have thought that the only true Christians were those with some showy spiritual gifts, especially being able to speak in tongues. And everyone else was a second-rate Christian. I’m told some some churches still think the same thing. But Paul says, no. Only one thing identifies true Christians. It is not being a human, it is not being Australian, it is not being well-off, it is not doing good things, it is not even coming to St Mark’s, even every week.
No, what marks people out as part of Christ’s body is that they have the Spirit of God in v3. And who has the Spirit of God? V3 - they proclaim that Jesus is Lord. Of course not just proclaiming it in terms of putting 3 words together, but actually living it.
At the end of the day there are only 2 groups of people – those who have the Holy Spirit, and those who do not. Those who do acknowledge Jesus is the Lord and Jesus is their Lord. The rest do not. The body of Christ is only those people with the Holy Spirit, those who by that Holy Spirit confess that Jesus is Lord. And it is those people only who will be with Christ forever, for after all they are his body.
If you know you are not yet part of that body, and want to be, please talk to me after the service. Only God can give you His Spirit, and all you need to do is ask in repentance and faith.
The people of Jesus form one body - the body of Christ. It is a body in which God is at work, Father, Son and Spirit as seen in vv4-6. It is one body. If you are here today and confess that Jesus is Lord then you are part of his body, and you have the Holy Spirit. We are one body. Here at St Mark’s God wants us to reflect that, to show unity, not encourage division.
APPL – I wonder if you sense that unity here at St Mark’s? Are you part of it? Do you have ideas for how we can maintain and reflect that unity? Please let me know.
ii. Every Christian has an important role to play in this body
Every Christian is part of Christ’s body. And secondly, every Christian has an important role to play in the body. Think again about your own body - every part is important isn’t it. Whether large or small, seen every day or hidden, every part is important. Every part is essential to the functioning of the body.
So too in Christ’s body. Every Christian is important and essential.
Our society loves the super-individual: the singles players in tennis like Leyton Hewitt or Andre Agassi; the person who climbs Everest, the superstar of the team. And we can tend to judge people based on what they do. We look down on some, and look up to others. The body of Christ is to be different. We are not to say ‘I’m unimportant and useless’. So vv15-20. And on the other hand, so to speak, we’re not to say ‘I don’t need you’. So vv21-25. in this body of Christ, none of us has reason to be arrogant or embarrassed. God designed each of us differently, and when we became Christians gave us different spiritual gifts, but we are on the same level, all equally important.
ILLN - If you think the only important people in this church are the ones you see up here then think again. The people behind the scenes are just as important. St Mark’s wouldn’t function properly if no one put out books, put them away, served tea and coffee, opened up the church, cleaned it, helped in the office, did the banking, prayed, gave... These things don’t happen by magic. They happen because people with different God-given gifts and abilities, who are all equally important, do their part.
Ask yourself the questions – how do I see myself in this congregation and body of Christ? Do I feel superior, inferior, valued, unimportant, insignificant, nothing to offer? Why? Think about the ways in which you do need the other members of the congregation, and the ways we need you? Every Christian has an important role to play in the body of Christ.
iii. Every Christian has a different role to play in this body
And thirdly, every Christian has a different role to play. Which is kind of obvious because we are all different. And we are not to judge people, or ourselves, by what kinds of gifts they do or do not have, or by the way they serve, or by what God may or may not be working in them, because it is God who has shaped us the way we are.
God designed you to serve him in unique ways. Only you can contribute what you were made for. God gives us different abilities and skills – as we saw in our first reading. And God gives Christians different spiritual gifts, as he sees fit. So v11 - READ. And there are all sorts of spiritual gifts – Paul lists some of them here, there are others elsewhere in the NT. I’ve given you a handout with a list of the main categories of spiritual gifts, so you can see the rich diversity of gifts.
And if you think about it we need different gifts in the body don’t we, so the whole body can work properly?
ILLN - imagine the body was just a pair of legs. How would you eat? Or hear? Or shake hands? Or… That would be a crazy body. Diversity is important in any and every body - we know it and God knows it.
So too in the body of Christ, there is diversity. There has to be. Imagine we were all pianists/drummers like..... We would all be queuing up to play, but no one would be singing. We need the whole range of gifts God gives us. We need people who will welcome, clean, speak, pray, sing, play, ....
We need each other. Our different gifts and abilities show we need other to get the work of the body done. I can’t fulfil my purpose without you. And vice versa.
We mustn’t say to someone you’re not a real Christian because you don’t have a particular gift. We mustn’t say we don’t need you because you don’t have a particular gift. We mustn’t say I’m of no use here because I don’t have a particular gift. We are not to get jealous about what someone else is or does or has, but rather use who God has made you. You have a tremendously important part to play, and it will be different. God has made me a certain part, which is what is best for me and for you.
Think about what happens if some of your body parts are removed, or not used or left dormant? What happens? The whole body suffers. So too in this body of Christ. You are part of this body - regardless of age, sex, experience, Christian maturity, whatever. And we need you.
Your contribution is invaluable, even if it is different to every one else’s. That’s how God has made us. And God knew what he was doing with you.
You are not inferior because you are different. You may feel that way. Feel left out or unnecessary because God hasn’t given you a certain gift. Sitting on the fringes or drifting from church to church because you don’t want to get involved? Look around. Everyone you see here needs you and what God has given you, because this body can only function at its full potential if you are involved.
Don’t just come along when you feel like it - please come regularly. And don’t then just come regularly - but please get involved. Do the work God has made you for. Be an active part of this body.
If you reflect on the parts of your own body, you know they are all different. They all have different roles. Which prompts the question – what body part are you?
iv. What is your role?
If you are a Christian then we have seen this morning you are part of the body of Christ, a very important part, with your own distinctives. It is important then for you to ask yourself – which part of the body of Christ am I, and what is my role in this body of Christ?
If you were here for 40 DOP you’ll know that Rick Warren talked about finding out your SHAPE – S.H.A.P.E – an acrostic which recognizes that people have different Spiritual gifts, different Hearts (or passions), different Abilities, different Personalities and different Experiences. God has given you all of these to make you the person you are – a unique part of the body of Christ. Over these next few weeks we want to encourage you to understand your SHAPE better, so you can serve God more effectively.
Today has been about the S and the A. Your Spiritual gifts and your Abilities. Every person is born with abilities - all of which of course come from God. So some of us can work with numbers, some with computers, some can paint, some can camp, some can sing, some can build or make, some can garden, others can cook, all sorts of abilities. And every person can develop various skills through practice – so I can learn how to play tennis, cook, etc. Where Christians then differ is that every Christian has as I say at least one gift from the Holy Spirit, which again usually needs to be developed through practice. And if you look at that list you’ll see a whole range of Spiritual Gifts which God gives to his people.
Which do you have? You may not know. Please find out. Abilities are fairly easy to spot. Gifts can be a little more difficult. If you don’t know – ask. Ask God to show you. Ask someone who knows you well – sometimes we can be blind to our own gifts, but see clearly the gifts of others. Try different ministries, do a spiritual gifts questionnaire. But do work it out.
And then ask yourself perhaps the most important question - how will I use my gifts and abilities to serve God, by serving the other members of Christ’s body. That’s why we have them. See v7 – Paul says these spiritual gifts are given for the common good. They are from God to be used by you, not for yourself, but for us - for the body of Christ.
v. Play your part!
Finally, once you’ve worked out what your SHAPE is, and how to use them, then please use it! The body of Christ here at St Mark’s will only grow as God has designed it to if we play our part.
You can listen to all the sermons in the world, you can do all the spiritual gift discovery courses and questionnaires in the world, you can talk to all the Christians you know about your SHAPE, but if you don’t do something with it, it’s pointless.
If you are a Christian and you only come along to church on a Sunday, sit in the pew and then go home, coming back next week to do it all over again, you are doing yourself and us a great disservice.
The body of Christ needs you, and you need the rest of the body. When each part of Christ’s body fulfils its God-given function, the whole body benefits. God’s Spirit has gifted each Christian for the good of the body. We need each other. In the church there are no nobodies. You are a gift of God to this body of Christ, and we need you and you need us.
Don’t just sit there, play your part.
Just as a body works best when it works together, so too the body of Christ. As we start this Year of Outreach remember that St Mark’s will be most effective, for all of us and for our community, when we all work together for the good of the whole body. God has put us all together, in this place, at this time, and given us each other to do that.