Monday, May 19, 2008

SPIRITUAL GIFTS AND LOVE

Our House Church, "The Mission", is spending some time in conversation and exploration of the Gifts of the Spirit lately. Yesterday we had an amazing time sharing what we thought our gifts were and helping one another discover their spiritual gift. It was very exciting to read through the 28 gifts outlined in the Bible and point out people in our Church who had a particular set of gifts.

One thing I find fascinating about spiritual gifts is how the Apostle Paul seemed to always entertwine his teaching about gifts with the command to love one another, see 1 Cor 12 and 13, Romans 12, etc.). I think it's important we understand the reason why Paul always combined these two concepts.

Obviously, Paul understood that spiritual gifts were meant to bless others, not to make ourselves look good or gain popularity in the Church. He describes the people of the Church as being like organs in a single body that all work together for the health and well-being of the body. If we forget to operate in our gifts with love, our ability to remain healthy and productive will be diminished.

Spiritual gifts are relational in nature, they are inherently for the good of others, not for our own personal edification. Without love they will not work as God intended.

Isn't just like God to give us a special gift that only works when we give it away to benefit someone else?

WHAT ABOUT LOVE?
Jesus was very clear that everything we do must be rooted in love. If we cannot love those closest to us, our family, our spouse, our friends, our Family in Christ; then we are fooling oursevles about everything else. Love is our greatest command and it is meant to define us as Followers of Jesus on a daily basis.

The more I read what the Bible says about love, and the more I attempt to live it out, the more convinced I am that we cannot even come close to what Jesus expects from us in this area.

Even as I cannot keep the Law (because I am sinful at heart), I cannot keep the command to Love (because I am selfish at heart).

It's also not a coincidence that Jesus reduces the Ten Commandments into Two: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself".

If we are powerless to live perfect lives and keep the Ten Commandments, we should not be surprised that we cannot love selflessly and keep the Two either.

ASK YOURSELF
Do you love others more than you love your own happiness? Are you willing to suffer a tiny inconvenience for their sake? Are you happy to decrease as they increase? These are the elements of the kind of love that Jesus talked about.

I know all of us have attempted this kind of love and found ourselves inadequate to the task. But is our response to give up? Do we abandon our calling, our identity as followers of Jesus? No! We press on towards the high calling of Jesus Christ in order to know Him more and obediently follow His example to us.

MORE THAN A FEELING
Love, like Faith, is not something we "Think" or "Feel" - It is something that we "Do". Love, like Faith, is the gift of God. We need God to make us (or re-make us) into the sort of people who are loving. Even as we exercise our Faith, we need to exercise Love towards others in order to develop a heart like His.

So, whether or not we "Feel" like loving, we must love in spite of our feelings. If we don't have the love inside us to give away, that's perfectly acceptable. We can confess to God that we feel empty. We can pray and ask God to fill us with His love for people. We can position our lives in such a way that we are available to receive God's love for others, and to give that love away, on a daily basis.

KEEP IT SIMPLE
I've always said that whenever we confess that we are not loving, the cure is to pray and ask God to give us a heart like His. The danger is that if we pray this prayer, He will do it! Are we ready for that? Are we willing to surrender our comfort and personal happiness in order to bring comfort and happiness to others?

I pray that each of us will experience the power of Christ in our lives this week. I pray that we will all know the greatest love of all; the kind that is willing to lay down and die for a friend.

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