Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Gifted to be a Gift

"Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms" (1 Pet. 4:10).

I've been studying about Spiritual Gifts ever since I was in college and started attending the Bible studies of Julianne Easton some 42 years ago. She not only taught material from Dr. Albert Grimes of Christian Training Center, but I learned very practically how to prophesy and pray for the sick. The Charismatic Movement was in full swing. And I received a dose of teaching about Spiritual Gifts that has stuck with me ever since.

When I arrived at the Anaheim Vineyard in 1985, I was persuaded to change some of my more Pentecostal paradigms for the Kingdom Theology of G. E. Ladd. Pastor John Wimber presented a compelling model for ministry that began to answer some of the problems I had encountered as I wrestled with what I had been taught.

Don't get me wrong, I still believed then and, indeed, still do believe now, in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit in and through the church today. But the Third Wave perspective that I began to embrace made so much more sense to me. (First wave was Pentecostalism, Second Wave was Charismatic Renewal, and the Third Wave was Vineyard and other Evangelical moves of the Spirit).

This verse from First Peter encapsulates so much that is important for us to understand about how God gifts believers in order for us to bless others. We are "gifted to be a gift."

The word for gift here is charisma which is the singular of charismata. It is based on the word for "grace, favor" which is charis with a neuter ending attached. Literally "gracious things" or what Russ Spittler, former Fuller Theological Seminary professor, called "gracelets." God's favor or blessing is given to us or imparted to us in a discreet and identifiable way.

But charismata is not used in the Bible with the kind of technical precision that we have tried to give it today. It is a very general term that is used for the grace to be married or single (1 Cor. 7); God's grace that delivers Paul from peril (2 Cor. 1:11); as well as the nine manifestation gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12-14), etc. Any unmerited favor of God--including natural talents or abilities, life experiences, training, social status, as well as supernatural endowments--can be seen as a charisma.

Any time God's unmerited favor is expressed to us, we become recipients of His grace. You see, it takes "various forms." Certainly we include in this the supernatural manifestations of the Spirit mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:7-11 and the Ministry Gifts mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:28, Rom. 12:6-8; and Eph. 4:11. One of the things we need to do is to "boil over with desire for Spiritual Things" (1 Cor. 14:1).

But Peter tells us that we have been appointed stewards of the gracelets that He has deposited in our lives. Like any good steward, we don't hoard these blessings as if they are our own stash, but we are simply entrusted with a resource to use on behalf of God Himself. We are supposed to be "Faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms."

I remember so well the teaching that "You have been given a gift. You need to find it and learn how to use it." But this sounds like I am the intended recipient of the gift. This actually results in a lot of wrong-headed thinking. The gift of God is not for me, but for others through me. I am Gifted, not for myself. I am Gifted to be a Gift.

How are you doing investing God's resources? Remember the parable of the Talents? Are you investing the resources of the Kingdom so that it produces more? That is what it means to be a "faithful steward of God's grace in its various forms."

(Oh. BTW: I ended up marrying my teacher, Julianne, over 39 years ago. Thanks God!)

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