16. Mastering A Plan for Formal Time Together—Serving and Spiritual Giftedness
IA. A Bible Study on Serving and Spiritual Giftedness
1B. Serving and Proper Motivation: Our Gracious Election, Calling, Sanctification, and Hope
1C. Romans 7:6
7:6 But now we have been released from the law, because we have died to what controlled us, so that we may serve in the new life of the Spirit and not under the old written code.
2C. 2 Corinthians 5:15
5:15 And he died for all so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised.
3C. Ephesians 2:8-10
2:8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 2:9 it is not of works, so that no one can boast. 2:10 For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.
4C. 2 Timothy 2:20-21
2:20 Now in a great house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also ones made of wood and of clay, and some are for honorable use, but others rather ignoble. 2:21 So if someone cleanses himself of such behavior, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart, useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
5C. Revelation 1:5-6
1:5 and from Jesus Christ—the faithful witness, the firstborn from among the dead, the ruler over the kings of the earth. To the one who loves us and has set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood 1:6 and has appointed us as a kingdom, as priests serving his God and Father—to him be the glory and the power for ever and ever! Amen.
6C. Questions for Thought
1. In Romans 7:6 what do you think Paul means by the contrast between serving “in the new life of the Spirit” instead of “under the old written code”? If God’s law is “holy, righteous, and good” (7:12; 13:8-10), what does the apostle mean? Cf. Romans 7:14; 9:30-33).
2. The person who has “come to life” though their faith in Christ can really only have one genuine response. What is that in 2 Cor 5:15? What does it mean to live for Christ instead of for yourself? Whne you’re able sometime, read 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 and Romans 12:1-15:13, noting all the implications of living for Christ and His glory.
3. What is the relationship between salvation by grace through faith and good works in Ephesians 2:8-10? What do you think are some good works that Paul might be referring to?
4. Read the context of 2 Timothy 2:20-21. What is the “great house” to which Paul refers? What are some gold and silver vessels and some made of wood or clay? According to 2 Tim 2:20-21, what then is the condition for useful service to the Lord? How would further seminary education or Biblical and theological training help and/or hinder in this process?
5. Summarize the message of Revelation 1:5-6. How does this text relate to other passages you’ve already looked at in this section?
2B. The Nature of True Service to God and Man
1C. It Is Wise
1D. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
9:24 Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win. 9:25 Each competitor must exercise self-control in everything. They do it to receive a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one. 9:26 So I do not run uncertainly or box like one who hits only air. 9:27 Instead I subdue my body and make it my slave, so that after preaching to others I myself will not be disqualified.
2D. 2 Corinthians 8:10-15, 20-21
8:10 So here is my opinion on this matter: it is to your advantage, since you made a good start last year both in your giving and your desire to give, 8:11 to finish what you started, so that just as you wanted to do it eagerly, you can also complete it according to your means. 8:12 For if the eagerness is present, the gift itself is acceptable according to whatever one has, not according to what he does not have. 8:13 For I do not say this so there would be relief for others and suffering for you, but as a matter of equality. 8:14 At the present time, your abundance will meet their need, so that one day their abundance may also meet your need, and thus there may be equality, 8:15 as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little.” …8:20 We did this as a precaution so that no one should blame us in regard to this generous gift we are administering. 8:21 For we are concerned about what is right not only before the Lord but also before men.
2C. It Is Sacrificial and Loving
1D. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10
6:4 But as God’s servants, we have commended ourselves in every way, with great endurance, in persecutions, in difficulties, in distresses, 6:5 in beatings, in imprisonments, in riots, in troubles, in sleepless nights, in hunger, 6:6 by purity, by knowledge, by patience, by benevolence, by the Holy Spirit, by genuine love, 6:7 by truthful teaching, by the power of God, with weapons of righteousness both for the right hand and for the left, 6:8 through glory and dishonor, through slander and praise; regarded as impostors, and yet true; 6:9 as unknown, and yet well-known; as dying and yet—see!—we continue to live; as those who are scourged and yet not executed; 6:10 as sorrowful, but always rejoicing, as poor, but making many rich, as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
2D. Romans 12:1-2
12:1 Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—alive, holy, and pleasing to God—which is your reasonable service. 12:2 Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God—what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.
3C. It Is Rooted in Personal Faith and Love for People
1D. 1 Corinthians 15:14, 20, 58
15:14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty…15:20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 15:58 So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
2D. 1 Thessalonians 1:3
1:3 because we recall in the presence of our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and endurance of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
3D. Galatians 5:6
5:6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight—the only thing that matters is faith working through love.
4C. It Is Single-Minded: Seeking Christ’s Glory
1D. 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10
1:9 For people everywhere report how you welcomed us and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus our deliverer from the coming wrath.
2D. 2 Timothy 2:4
2:4 No one in military service gets entangled in matters of everyday life; otherwise he will not please the one who recruited him.
3D. Luke 9:62
9:62 Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”
4D. 2 Corinthians 4:5
4:5 For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.
5D. Joshua 24:15
24:15 If you have no desire to worship the Lord, choose today whom you will worship, whether it be the gods whom your ancestors worshiped beyond the river, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living. But as for me and my family, we will worship the Lord!”
5C. Questions for Thought
1. What does Paul mean when he says “run to win” in 1 Corinthians 9:24? How do we as Christians differ from those in the world (v. 25)? Why does Paul talk about “subduing the body” in a context of running well in the Christian life?
2. How does 2 Corinthians 8:10-15, 20-21 show that Paul tried to serve God wisely and for the greatest benefit to all? This is just one example of the way Paul served God. How does it help you?
3. Is there a cost in following Jesus, i.e., in serving him and others? Read 2 Corinthians 6:4-10. What are some of the ways in which Paul commended himself before the Lord and to the Corinthians? How is Paul’s ministry similar to that of Jesus? Notice how tested and proven character, as well as knowledge, is key to serving God properly.
4. According to Romans 12:1, in light of what truth are we supposed to present ourselves to God for service? What kind of sacrifice is Paul talking about? How is it possible to be a “living” sacrifice? Why is serving God the “reasonable service” of an informed Christian? What two commands does Paul give in 12:2? When we obey these two commands, what is the result? How is that related to serving God in 12:1?
5. According to 1 Corinthians 15:14, 20, 58, what is the relationship between “working for the Lord” and Christ’s resurrection? Why is this so important to understand and remember (cf. 15:58)?
6. How do you think faith and love are related to each other? Read 1 Thessalonians 1:3, Galatians 5:6, and Colossians 1:3-8.
7. In 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10 what is the nature of true service to God? In our day to day experience, what are some idols that seek to prevent us from worshipping the Lord unhindered and with sincerity of heart? What must we do with them?
8. What does 2 Timothy 2:4 communicate about single-mindedness in our service to the Lord? Does this mean that we can have no hobbies?
9. What does Jesus mean by “look back” in Luke 9:62? What do you think would happen to a farmer, who having hooked up the oxen and now plowing along, kept looking behind him? In what ways do we “look back” and what are we told to do about it (cf. 1 John 1:9)?
10. According to 2 Corinthians 4:5, what confession stands at the heart of all our service?
11. How is Joshua a model for us? Read Joshua 24:1-28.
3B. Christ as the Model Servant
1C. Mark 10:45
10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
2C. Philippians 2:5-11
2:5 You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, 2:6 who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, 2:7 but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. 2:8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! 2:9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 2:10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow—in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 2:11 and every tongue confess to the glory of God the Father that Jesus Christ is Lord.
3C. Questions for Thought
1. Summarize the message of Mark 10:45? What is the ultimate sacrifice in serving God? Why is even this unacceptable to God if it is not done for love’s sake? Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-12.
2. The pattern of “the Servant” in Philippians 2:6-11 is humility, service, suffering, death, and then exaltation. In general, what does this mean for those of us who claim to follow Christ?
4B. Struggles with Service
Fatigue in serving Christ can result from a number of things. First, sometimes we’re physically tired simply from travelling, staying up late with people, working hard at conferences, discipling people in difficult situations etc. What we need to do in these cases, is, as we’re able, simply get back on track with our sleep. Remember, as far as we know, we’ll be serving Christ for many years, i.e., if he tarries and if he permits us breath! This could be a long time; so serve him wholeheartedly knowing that it must be done wisely. Don’t kill the horse so that you can no longer deliver the message! Second, there are times when we are emotionally tired as a result of any number of issues we’ve had to deal with. One that we need to be careful for involves serving the wrong master. Recently we had a leadership meeting at our church to see how everyone was doing. One person in particular was quite distraught as a result of the emotional fatigue incurred through serving into the same depressing situation for a long period of time. But, she came to realize that while the situation was indeed difficult, she had been serving out of wrong motives, i.e., out of a need for personal acceptance and recognition. Now before you judge her too quickly, bear in mind that serving Christ is difficult at times and motivations get fouled up in the process. However, when she sought Christ in repentance, the difficulties were not removed, but she regained a renewed sense of emotional and physical strength. Remember too that often there is a fairly direct link between emotional and physical tiredness.
This is a difficult problem to assess, since effectiveness ultimately comes from the Lord. We plant and sow, but “God causes the growth” (1 Cor 3:7). Nonetheless, as 1 Cor 9:24-27 talks about, there is a need to evaluate our effectiveness or lack thereof. One of the best ways to go about this, besides asking other leaders and people you respect for help (including reading good books), is to begin a dialectical process of going back and forth from scripture to your experience and from your experience back to scripture. In other words, prayerfully do ministry and then prayerfully read about it in scripture (cf. 2 Tim 3:14-17). Get this dialogue going with God, yourself, and scripture and do so in light of the ministry in order to see what God has to show you.
3C. Being Treated Like A Servant
A common occurrence related to being a servant of Christ is the rather stinging and unpleasant experience of actually being treated like a servant! Imagine that! Those who are walking with God realize their calling as Christ’s servants, but not many of us enjoy being treated like servants. Well, if you are really serving Christ, this will always be part of the experience. Now as a leader, there are times when it is entirely appropriate to speak into someone’s life—someone who consciously or unconsciously survives on the service of others, but never lifts a hand to help—gently rebuking and encouraging them to “step up to the plate” and begin to serve their Lord and his people (1 Peter 4:10). Remember too, that as servants of our humble and mighty savior, Jesus Christ, we have never been, in principle, anywhere that he has not already been.
4C. Difficulty Finding a Niche
Some people want God to show them where to serve, and until he does, they’re content to do nothing. This is wrong headed, for the Bible commands us to serve wherever we reasonably can and there are always more needs than can ever be met. Begin serving and from this posture ask God to show you your spiritual gift(s) and more specific areas of service and contribution. Do not sit there and do nothing! This can reflect unbelief and therefore disobedience. God’s leading often comes in our willingness to move out and trust him. So go and serve with all the faith in God and love for people he can work in you (Phil 2:12-13)!
5C. Questions for Thought
1. What are some of your struggles that prevent you from stepping out and boldly serving the Lord? What is the Lord teaching you through them?
2. Who could you ask to pray for you, that God might lead you into the ministries and good works he has prepared for you?
5B. Service and Spiritual Gifts
1C. General Service
All of us have been called as servants and should be serving the Lord and his people in some way on a regular basis. Such is a reasonable and timely response to grace. As I mentioned above, I feel that it is in the context of actually serving the Lord that he reveals to us special areas of service according to the gifts he has supplied to us. Through the advice of wise people, prayerful scriptural reflection, and circumstances—all three of which are organized for us by the indwelling Spirit of God—we will learn to walk in areas of service already marked out for us (see Ephesians 2:8-10).
2C. Specific Contributions: Using Your Gift in Humble Service
1D. Romans 12:3-8
12:3 For by the grace given to me I say to every one of you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think, but to think with sober discernment, as God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith. 12:4 For just as in one body we have many members, and not all the members serve the same function, 12:5 so we who are many are one body in Christ, and individually we are members who belong to one another. 12:6 And we have different gifts, according to the grace given to us. If the gift is prophecy, that individual must use it in proportion to his faith. 12:7 If it is service, he must serve; if it is teaching, he must teach; 12:8 if it is exhortation, he must exhort; if it is contributing, he must do so with sincerity; if it is leadership, he must do so with diligence; if it is showing mercy, he must do so with cheerfulness.
2D. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (Eph 4)
12:4 Now there are different gifts, but the same Spirit. 12:5 And there are different ministries, but the same Lord. 12:6 And there are different results, but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. 12:7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all. 12:8 For one is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, and another the message of knowledge according to the same Spirit, 12:9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 12:10 to another performance of miracles, to another prophecy, and to another discernment of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 12:11 It is one and the same Spirit, distributing to each person as he decides, who produces all these things.
3D. 1 Peter 4:10
4:10 Just as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of the varied grace of God.
3C. Questions for Thought
1. We have already seen that Romans 12:3-8 really starts in 12:1-2 (and indeed in the first chapter of the book). In 12:1-2 we saw that in light of God’s mercy Christians are to offer themselves to Him for service. They are not to conform to this world but are to be transformed so that they can test and approve God’s will. In short, then, the context of 12:3-8 is personal and corporate holiness. This must never be forgotten, lest the gifts be sought after as an end in themselves. Thus there is no room for pride, but only sober judgment about one’s gifting (12:3). And we must also be continually reminded nowadays of the organic relationship between each member of the body and all the others (12:4-5). Keeping, then, these truths before us we are ready to proceed into a discussion concerning the diversity of the body and the exercise of the spiritual gifts in 12:6-8. What are the gifts that Paul mentions here? What accounts for the differences of gifts among members Christ’s body (12:6)? Do you think you have any of the gifts mentioned in this list? If so, what one and how can you develop it? NOTE: Some gifts, such as serving, are very broad in their application and may include any number of Spirit sponsored, godly activities that benefit the body. A good litmus test to discover your particular gifting includes (1) motivations in your heart; (2) the blessing of God on your attempts to serve; and (3) the encouragement of others.
2. Who is the author of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6? Why do you think Paul brings in the Trinity at this point? What does the Trinity teach us about God’s unity and diversity?
3. According to 1 Corinthians 12:7, what is the purpose for the spiritual gifts and are they given only to certain persons, i.e., perhaps those who are more holy than others?
4. In Romans 12:3-8, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4:7-16, and 1 Peter 4:10 what are some of the gifts God gives to his church? What does each one refer to and how would they function? NOTE: The precise meaning and function of some of the gifts (e.g., “a word of knowledge”) are difficult to be certain about. Ultimately they must be Spirit sponsored, gracious in their delivery, and used only for the benefit of others. They are not to be used for self-advancement.
5. Who decides who receives what gift(s) (12:11)? Read the list and rhetorical questions in 1 Corinthians 12:28-21? This is very important. Paul can command a church as a whole to let other gifts be exercised (14:39-40; 1 Thess 5:20), but he never commands a certain person to “get” a spiritual gift or even to ask for one. Surely this has some application to us today. Furthermore, spiritual gifts, as necessary, beautiful, and encouraging as they are, are nonetheless not the telltale sign of the presence of the Spirit. The genuine and true confession of Christ as Lord is the sign that one truly possesses the Spirit of God (1 Cor 12:1-3). I do not say this to denigrate God’s amazing grace (for his gifts are really specific, identifiable manifestations of his grace) in any way, but only to relate us rightly to it.
6. What command does Peter give us in 1 Peter 4:10? How does this relate to you right now?
6B. The Goal of Service
1C. To Bring Honor and Praise to Christ
1D. 1 Peter 4:11
Whoever speaks, let it be with God’s words. Whoever serves, do so with the strength that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever. Amen.
2D. Colossians 3:23-24
3:23 Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people, 3:24 because you know that you will receive your inheritance from the Lord as the reward. Serve the Lord Christ.
2C. To Build His Body and Help People
1D. Ephesians 4:7-13, 16
4:7 But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of the gift of Christ. 4:8 Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he took captives, he gave gifts to men.” (4:9 Now what is the meaning of “he ascended,” except that he also descended to the lower parts of the earth? 4:10 He, the very one who descended, is also the one who ascended above all the heavens, in order to fill all things.) 4:11 It was he who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 4:12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God—a mature person, attaining to the measure of Christ’s full stature.
2D. 1 Corinthians 12:7
12:7 To each person the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the benefit of all.
3C. Questions for Thought
1. What is the ultimate reason for the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Peter 4:11?
2. According to Colossians 3:23 in what manner are we to serve the Lord? Why (cf. 3:24)? What is the danger in serving men only, with our eyes fixed on pleasing them and with little or no thought given to pleasing God? How is this like idolatry?
3. Why were the various gifts given the church according to Ephesians 4:12-13 (See again 1 Cor 12:7)? How do the gifts relate to Christlikeness? Individual and corporate?
7B. Rewards for Service
1D. Mark 10:28-31
10:28 Peter began to speak to him, “Look, we have left everything to follow you!” 10:29 Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, there is no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for my sake and for the sake of the gospel 10:30 who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much—homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, fields, all with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life. 10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
2D. 3 John 4
1:4 I have no greater joy than this: to hear that my children are living according to the truth.
3D. Philippians 1:25
1:25 And since I am sure of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for the sake of your progress and joy in the faith, 1:26 so that because of me you may swell with pride in Christ Jesus, when I come back to you.
2C. In Eternity
1D. 1 Corinthians 3:8
3:8 The one who plants and the one who waters are united, but each will receive his reward according to his work.
2D. 2 Corinthians 5:10
5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil.
3C. Questions for Thought
1. What sorts of things does Jesus promise those who serve him in the advancement of the gospel (cf. Mark 10:28-31)? Does this always happen? What ultimately happened to Peter to whom the Lord addressed the promise?
2. In 3 John 4, John says that his greatest joy is to see his children walking in the truth. Is this the reward you want for your service? See also Paul in Philippians 1:25-26.
IIA. Synthesis, Practical Applications, and Training
1C. Ongoing Applications
1D. Discipling others
2D. Serving in some capacity in your church
2C. Special Applications
1D. Helping in one time events
3C. Training Objectives and Activities
Objective: The new believer will develop a servant’s heart and seek to offer services freely, spontaneously, and without complaining. Further, over time, the discipler will help the maturing Christian to recognize his/her areas of giftedness and to look for avenues to develop this gift(s).