We have discovered aspects of identity in Christ that are shared by all believers. Christ’s kingdom is a commonality that unites us together powerfully. But this unity doesn’t mean uniformity. Part of being in Christ means having a unique identity and function within the Christian community. We will now explore some of these distinguishing characteristics as we take a look at our spiritual gifts.
Read Session 9: Spiritual Gifts.
Complete the Life Inventory: Spiritual Gifts exercise beginning on page 118.
One key to determining your spiritual gifts is recognizing the times when you’ve effectively served others and received affirmation. You may have a breadth of ministry experience from church or parachurch ministries, or you may have little or no ministry experience. Whether this is your first attempt to identify your spiritual gifts or one of many attempts, the process of identifying your gifts can help you better serve in the body of Christ. If “ministry” seems too grand a word, try seeing your gifts as means of expressing Christ’s love to others. As more and more believers exercise their gifts, the community increasingly becomes a representation of Christ to the watching world. Outsiders come to faith when they see such a community of faith.
There are many helpful aids in understanding our giftedness. But before we seek to identify what gifts we may or may not have, we need to commit to honesty with ourselves and humbly put our lives in proper perspective before God. As Romans 12:3 instructs, we are to view ourselves with sober judgment according to the measure of faith given to us. Gifts differ according to the grace given to us (see Romans 12:6). God freely gives us our gifts at our spiritual rebirth in the same way He gave our natural talents at our physical birth. Because we don’t earn or create our own gifts, there’s no room for pride, comparison, or envy about gifts we may or may not have. “Spiritual gifts are given in Christ; they are enrichments received from Christ. It is vital that we should see this, or we shall be confusing natural and spiritual gifts to the end of our days.”
Christ ought to be central in our thinking about the Spirit’s ministry through us:
The truth we must grasp here is that our exercise of spiritual gifts is nothing more nor less than Christ himself ministering through his body to his body, to the Father, and to all mankind. From heaven Christ uses Christians as his mouth, his hands, his feet, even his smile; it is through us, his people, that he speaks and acts, meets, loves, and saves here and now in this world. This seems (though the point is disputed) to be part of the meaning of Paul’s picture of the church as Christ’s body, in which every believer is a “member” in the sense of a limb or organ: The head is the command center for the body, and the limbs move at the head’s direction.
You may be starting from scratch in trying to discern what gifts you have to offer others. If so, don’t feel ashamed. Instead, look around you; consider what ministries are happening in your local church body and perhaps what ministries are not. Begin by picking a ministry that you are drawn to, and inquire about how you can serve. As you jump in and begin serving others, it will become apparent over time in what areas you are and are not gifted.
Just as we discovered universal and unique aspects of our earthly identity (gender, temperament, and heritage), we also find corporate and individual distinctions in our heavenly identity in Christ. While discovering individual distinctions is helpful, our discussion of giftedness is not an end in itself. The end is the shared maturity of the entire community of believers. Our identity in Christ intimately bonds us to other believers in the pursuit of becoming like Christ (see Ephesians 4:11-16).
Read Session 10: Corporate Aspects of Identity in Christ.
Complete Biblical Exercise: Colossians 3 beginning on page 83.