April 1, 2021 | by: Tony Sanelli | 0 comments
Sheri and I both looked at the glass object and thought how nice! What exactly is this?
We offered our guesses as to what the wedding gift could possibly be. Of all the gifts we opened thirty-nine years ago, this one is the easiest to remember because we had such a difficult time identifying it and such a fun time trying to come up with a clever way of writing the thank you card without giving away our ignorance.
The months that followed were also filled with fun. When you’re not sure what something is you experiment by seeing how it can be used. My guess was some kind of strange vase. Or could it be one of those fancy soap dishes? One thing was for sure, it made a great paperweight.
We were sure there was a sophisticated name for it but were too young and uncultured to know what it was. Eventually the strange glass object found its way into a storage box. Sheri and I couldn’t bring ourselves to throw it away because it might have been very valuable. We just did not know!
Unfortunately, I find many Christians in this same predicament. Not sure of who they are in Christ and what they possess so they experiment a little now and then but eventually end up sitting on the sidelines. Their spiritual gifts put into storage because they are not sure what they are meant to be. But Paul insists that no one was meant to sit on the sidelines. We all have gifts that are given to us. Spiritual gifts that are meant to be used according to the proportion of our faith.
These gifts are not earned nor are they created by us. This is self-evident because the Greek word is charismata. This term is derived from the Greek word for grace, charis. This is an indication that these gifts both come by God’s grace and make God’s grace evident. They are part and parcel of what it means to be in God’s adopted grace family. In addition, Paul puts the verb “have” in a continuing present participle form. This implies that Christians are characterized by the constant state of having these grace gifts.
They are always present in the body of Christ ready to magnify and reveal the grace of God at all times. Because the noun “gifts” is in the plural, some believe that this seems to suggest that not only does the local body have many gifts, but individuals have a combination of spiritual gifting which together comprise a single spiritual “gift.” Somewhat like a gift-wrapped package which when opened reveals several gifts inside.
God has determined that this is what the community of faith will be like. We are interdependent. We all belong. We all possess. We all have a role. We all contribute. Though the grace behind our gifts is the same, that grace takes different manifestations in each individual. God has dispensed this grace like a painter dispenses his colors on a canvas. He is sovereign in determining the shape the canvas will take. This eliminates jealousy in the body of Christ. God is the painter. His colors have been added as He has desired. We possess what we possess by His design. We cannot borrow or take away anyone else’s grace. It is theirs.
However, this implies that we need the grace God has given to others and others need the grace God has given to us. No one possesses the full spectrum of the colors and hues of God’s grace in himself. He or she is part of a total canvas.
In this text, Paul continues by giving his readers a sample of seven gifts, which he urges them to exercise conscientiously for the common good of the body. He seems not to be providing an exhaustive list since he offers a different list in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4:11. Rather, he groups them in two categories, which some call “speaking gifts” (prophesying, teaching and encouraging) and “service gifts” (serving, contributing, leading and showing mercy). Peter makes the same distinction in 1 Peter 4:11.
Through gifts of speech and gifts of service God pours His grace upon the body of Christ in a diversity of ways and builds it up into maturity. Growth involves receiving the grace of God through others and manifesting the grace of God to others. If you remain on the sidelines you can only receive not manifest. You may find creative ways to grow, but like a plant hidden away in a closet you will lack the life-giving power of exposure to sun-light. In the body of Christ, this light is the grace of God which comes to you and through you. Only the grace of God carries the promise of all sufficiency for meeting all of our needs. But God in His wisdom has decided to mediate His grace in part through the individual members of the body of Christ.
The tapestry that was our local church family took on drastic changes in 2020. Certain shades of colors were no longer present, and others emerged as we restructured how ministry and body life was experienced with so many limitations. Some families moved out of state and others joined without ever meeting in person. Now as we return to more and more in-person gatherings we need to reorganize with our new color palate. We need people to begin to step up to serve the family.
Allow me to urge all of you to become more involved in the community of grace this year. Whether it be a gift of speech or a gift of service we must all manifest the grace of God towards others. The encouraging news is that the grace of God is here already! It is hidden away in some of your lives. The grace we lack to have a full and improved Sunday School ministry, local outreach, media ministry, book store, music and youth ministry is all here. Sealed away in the gift that God has made you to be.
After all the zoom meetings fade into our past please unwrap the grace gift God has given us all–by having given it to you. Unwrap it and bring it out into the open. Get off the sidelines and let us all see the charis that God will uniquely manifest through you. Read Romans 12:3-8 and ask the Lord to help you unwrap His grace that the ever changing canvas of Grace Bible Church might take on even greater beauty in 2021. The gift we all need this new year may have already been given by the Lord – you.
Tony Sanelli is a Pastor Teacher at Grace Bible Church
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