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Christians: Don’t be Dismayed by Your Differences

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For as long as I can remember that God has been guiding me on the path I now walk (although I walk it very imperfectly), I have wondered why other Christians do not see things the same way as I do. Is one of us right, and the other wrong? How can that be if we are both walking with God? Does God tell us different things? Yes, God does tell us different things, as we are ready for them. He leads every person along a different path, according to His Divine wisdom. He uses each of us for a different purpose, in order to fulfill His eternal purpose.

We should not be divided by our differences. Instead, we should learn from each other, and glorify God for the diversity of His new creation. We should not try to force the calling God has given us on another person. Although, you will meet others who have a similar spiritual calling to yours, and you will have a deeper bond with them, than with other Christians.

What really matters is Christ, and that we love Him and love each other, through the love that flows from Him.

 

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Ministries and Occupations

Watchman Nee

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Watchman Nee once pointed out that when the Lord called people to His work, their God-given ministries were often prefigured by their secular occupations.

For instance, when the Lord called Peter, he was casting his net and bringing fish onto the shore. What was true in the natural ended up being true in the spiritual. Peter’s ministry centered on fishing for men. His emphasis was evangelism, and he brought many lost people to Christ (just think of Pentecost in Acts 2).

When the Lord apprehended Paul, he was building tents. And his future ministry reflected this. Paul was more of a spiritual builder, a “master builder” as he put it in 1 Corinthians 3. His emphasis was to build the church into the fullness of Christ. So Paul spent most of his time grounding and enriching the believing communities to gather under the Headship of Christ, establishing them deeply into Christ, unveiling to them God’s eternal purpose – or “the whole counsel of God” as he once put it.

When the Lord apprehended John, he was mending a torn net. We see in John’s later writings (1 John, 2 John, and 3 John) that he is bringing the church back to center . . . back to first things . . . back to “the beginning” of Christ as life, love, and light in a time when these elements had been lost. The tent that Paul built was falling apart during John’s day, so John prophetically began to repair it by restoring God’s original thought, bringing His eternal purpose back into view.

So Peter casts the net, Paul builds the tent, and John mends the tent. All three men were Christian workers in the Lord’s vineyard, but each had a different emphasis and disposition.

In my observation, Neil is a lot like Peter. His major focus seems to going out to the sea, casting the net, and bringing the fish on dry land and encouraging God’s people to do the same. Some have described my on-the-ground ministry to be more like Paul’s – the building of the tent – the constructive work of building the house of God to fulfill the eternal purpose “from eternity to here.” By contrast, my writing ministry in books like Pagan Christianity and Jesus Manifesto are very much along the lines of John’s ministry of repairing the torn net.

Whether that’s accurate or not, here’s my point. The ministries of Peter, Paul, and John are not to compete with one another. Instead, they are to complement one another. The body of Christ needs the ministries of Peter, Paul, and John. And each person needs the other.” – Frank Viola, Neil Cole & Frank Viola Discuss Missional Organic Church

In my opinion, this is a very interesting idea. How does your God-given ministry correspond to your secular occupation?

How the Spiritual Gifts Work Together

In our look at the Spiritual Gifts, we’ve explored the Motivational Gifts, the Manifestations of the Spirit, and the Ministry Gifts. Let’s take a look at how the different type of gifts work together. We’ll use 2 imaginary people, named Joe and Jane, as examples.

First, Joe has the motivational gift of exhortation. Joe gives words of wisdom and prophecies to encourage others to grow spiritually. God gives Joe the ministry of teaching. Joe’s teaching focuses on helping other Christian’s grow spiritually.

Jane has the motivational gift of contribution. Jane has powerful faith to give in the face of great adversity and is able to discern between which ministries God is working in and which aren’t. God gives Jane the ministry gift of shepherding. Jane helps guide God’s sheep. She, especially, enjoys giving her time, giving her money, and opening her home to care for God’s sheep.

I hope this brief study will help us look at our brothers and sisters in a new light. They may have different focuses in their Christian walks, compared to ours. That is OK. We have to understand that our way of living Christ is not the only way. It takes all of us to form the complete and perfect image of Jesus Christ.

Let’s thank God for the great gifts which He has given to us in abundance. Also, let’s use the gifts God has given to build each other up, not to tear down.

Ministry Gifts

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
(Eph 4:11-12 ESV)

Previously, we looked at the Motivational Gifts and the Manifestations of the Spirit. Now we will look at the Ministry Gifts. Remember, this is a quick overview and is not meant to be an in-depth study. I don’t think that everyone has one of these ministries. Some Christians spend their entire lives doing the work of one of these ministries. Other Christians perform certain ministries at certain times. Unfortunately, we lay the burden of being the “jack of all trades” on pastors (shepherds), when that is not what Jesus meant for His Church. No one person is called to perform all of these ministries at one time.

Apostles

  • Plant churches (must be sent by a group of believers)

Prophets

  • Inspired speakers

Evangelists

  • Preach the gospel

Shepherds

  • Watch out for God’s sheep

Teachers

  • Instruct God’s people

There are two purposes listed in the text for these ministries: Equipping the saints for the work of ministry and building up the body of Christ. Those people with these gifts are suppose to use their gifts to help other Christians in their ministries. These gifts should not be elevated to special offices. They are given to form the saints into the perfect image of Jesus Christ. In light of this, they should not even be thought of as gifts for an individual, they are gifts through individuals for the Body of Christ.

In our final look at the Spiritual Gifts, I will show how the different types of gifts work together in a Christian’s life.

Manifestations of the Spirit

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills. For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.
(1Co 12:7-12 ESV)

In our last look at spiritual gifts, we saw the Motivational Gifts. These were the gifts that motivate our lives in Christ. Now we look at the Manifestations of the Spirit. First of all, I don’t completely understand all of these gifts because I have not experienced them all. I do know that God gives us these gifts at various times to fulfill His purposes. You may experience one of these manifestations all of your life, for a season, or even sporadically. Each Christian may be given any combination of the manifestations of the Spirit. A person may have one or many manifestations of the Spirit. It is important to recognize that these gifts are given for the common good of the saints, not for an individual’s own benefit. Also, don’t boast about the greatness of your gifts, because these aren’t done in your power. Instead, they are done in the power of God’s Spirit. That is why they are manifestations of His Spirit.

Words of Wisdom

  • Wise word of advice for a given situation.

Words of Knowledge

  • Special knowledge given to you by God that you don’t have naturally.

Faith

  • Amazing faith for particularly difficult circumstances.

Healing

  • Healing the sick and wounded.

Miracles

  • Special act of power from God.

Prophecy

  • Knowledge of future events.

Discernment of spirits

  • Special wisdom to discernment between good and evil spirits.

Tongues

  • A language given by God that is not ones own.

Interpretation of Tongues

  • Ability to interpret someone’s tongues.

By no means, do I believe that Paul meant for this to me an exhaustive list of manifestations of the Spirit. Considering our God is infinite, I am sure that He manifests His Spirit in so many ways that we could never keep track of them all.

Through the spiritual gifts we can see the amazing diversity in which God has made us in Christ.

Motivational Gifts

Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
(Rom 12:6-8 ESV)

This study is not meant to be comprehensive. 7 gifts are presented in Romans 12. These are the motivational gifts, meaning that these gifts are what motivates us in our life with Christ. It is my opinion, that each Christian only has one of these gifts. My understanding of the gifts are limited, in that, I only have one. You may feel you relate to some of the other gifts, but only one will be the gift that drives your heart. In Romans 12:9-15, Paul gives advice to the people who have each gift. You don’t get to pick your gift. God has already given it to you when you were created anew in Christ. In order to discover your gift you may have to pray and do some self-evaluation. Your gift may even be shrouded in darkness, if you are not walking with God.

Prophecy

  • Driven to reveal sin.
  • Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. (Rom 12:9 ESV)
  • These Christians are often not well-received because they bring the evil deeds to light. It is easy for them to forget to love the people, whose evil deeds they bring to light.

Service

  • Driven to serve others.
  • Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom 12:10 ESV)
  • These Christians don’t want to be the leader. They want to help others with whatever needs to be done. They are encouraged to serve with brotherly affection and outdo each other in showing people honor.

Teaching

  • Driven to deep study for the purpose of teaching.
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. (Rom 12:11 ESV)
  • These Christians study a lot, so that they can teach others what they learn. They must be passionate in their studies and teaching. Also, they must remember their teaching is for the Lord, not themselves.

Exhortation

  • Driven to encourage others to grow spiritually.
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. (Rom 12:12 ESV)
  • These Christians want to see others grow spiritually. Since, not all the other gifts are so driven to grow spiritually, these Christians must have hope, patience, and pray constantly for the spiritual growth of others.

Contribution

  • Driven to give.
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. (Rom 12:13 ESV)
  • These Christians want to give as much as they can to others. They find great satisfaction in giving. They should direct their giving primarily to the saints and try to show hospitality.

Leading

  • Driven to organize and administrate.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Rom 12:14 ESV)
  • These Christians are driven to organize the Body of Christ, so that it can act together. They may organize the people necessary to assist a Christian in the hospital. These Christians can have a hard time, because other people want to do things their own way. These Christians should remember to bless those who are mean to them.

Mercy

  • Driven to show empathy.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Rom 12:15 ESV)
  • These Christians want to cry with you, when you cry. They want to laugh with you, when you laugh. They can experience the emotions of people around them and therefore, relate to that person in a special way.

Then, Paul gives direction to all the Christians:

Live in harmony with one another.
(Rom 12:16 ESV)

Each of these spiritual gifts reveal to us a piece of Jesus Christ. We must understand that each Christian has been uniquely created in Christ. We are each driven in a unique way to perform the good works that God has prepared for us. Your way of living the life of Christ may not be the only way.

Spiritual Gifts

Over the coming days, I will present a short study on the spiritual gifts. In my humble opinion, understanding our spiritual gifts are important for a few reasons:

  1. We can give God thanks for them.
  2. To understand why we are the way we are.
  3. To understand why other Christians are the way they are.

I don’t want to tell you what your gifts are. Your spiritual gifts will come naturally if you are walking with God. They don’t need to be forced. Instead, as God shapes us in His image, we will continue to grow in the gifts, which He has given us.

There are different spiritual gifts listed in the Bible.
These gifts can be broken down into 3 categories of gifts:

  1. Romans 12:6-8 are the Motivational Gifts.
  2. 1 Corinthians 12:7-9 are the Manifestations of the Spirit.
  3. Ephesian 4:11 are the Ministry Gifts.

Not everyone agrees on spiritual gifts and that is alright. I especially anticipate questions about the motivational gifts. If you want a better explanation of them, please order the free materials about them by Russell Kelfer at Discipleship Tape Ministries. If you don’t feel like ordering the materials I will attempt to address anyone’s concerns myself.

We must remember that not a single one of us can fully show the image of Jesus Christ alone, but all of us together are His complete and perfect Body.

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