6th August 2023

God’s Varied grace

Passage: 1 Peter 4:10-11, John 20:21, Romans 12:6-8
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Tonight we have, you'll see it on the screen, these couple of verses from 1 Peter, and we could have chosen to go a bit of a broader, a larger bunch of verses to look at, but I'm trying to keep our messages simple, and by having less content to cover we'll perhaps get more deeply, but also keep it simple. But the content of this passage is Peter exhorting the church in the light of the fact that Jesus is going to come soon, and he doesn't know how soon, but he's speaking to the fact that Christ could come at any time, and they are in the end times, and therefore how should they behave, and what should they know about themselves. Now all of that applies to us even though it's almost 2,000 years later, nonetheless we are still in the end times, the end times actually were formed from Jesus rising from the dead, or you could take it from the day of Pentecost, right through to when Christ returns again. But certainly we're in that same time period, and he's speaking about the church, that's like us, the people who belong to Christ are the church.

And in this he's also talking about the fact that we've been given gifts, and I'm looking up at the thing to try and find the spot where your Bible reading is agreeing with mine. Verse 10 is where we need to be, and as each has received a gift, I'm not sure why, 1 Peter chapter 4, ah you've got chapter 1, can you try again please. I'll read what it is, as each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God's varied grace. Whoever speaks, as one who speaks the oracles of God. Whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. All right, so this passage is really interesting, and I'll try and just make six brief points, if you like. The first one is he's talking about God's varied grace, and the word varied is a very interesting word, because it means that God's acts of grace to us, and particularly God's giving us gifts, spiritual gifts, that they are varied, and God's varied gifts.

And what that means is that how the Holy Spirit works in us to give us the things that we're meant to be doing, the gift, the spiritual gift you have is that which really defines your service that he wants you to work in, and they're varied, so don't expect that what you see others doing is necessarily what you should do. Of course, I think there are people who would have similar gifts, and you might find someone else who, like yourself, is doing the same sorts of things. And often that's one way you can discover your spiritual gift, by what I call resonance. Resonance is when you see someone doing something, and you say, wow, I could do that. And that happens when you come across another Christian who's doing something, and you find that you can take up the same action yourself, and it clicks for you. But just as much as you may find someone who has a similar gift to you, be aware of the fact that it's a bit of a mistake to see someone else doing something and say, well, I'll have a try just at that as well, when you may not have that gift that might not work out the same for you. And that is true of people in the ministry, and of any given set of pastors that there are, they all skin the cat differently, meaning, you're the cat, meaning how they work in the church. They work to bless the church through varying ways, depending on what gifts they've been given with. And so you can go to one church, and I know pastors, I had one myself when I was a teenager, who was probably, in Adelaide this is, famous for his pastoral ability.

He also had a fantastic memory. And if he met someone, and just talked to them and found their name, he never forgot it. I brought from school one of my friends, and on the steps of the church, the Unley Park Baptist Church it was, he met the pastor, Pastor Alan, and eventually the years wound around the fellow never came back to church again, and I went to Brisbane, came here to Brisbane, and my friend, I still kept in touch with him, he was walking through the streets of Adelaide and ran into the pastor Alan. And Alan says, he said, oh, he said, he said, now I've forgotten the fellow's gift now. Ashley was his name, he said, Ashley, how are you getting on in that course you're doing to do with, and he was training to be a designer of houses, an architect. And the fellow talked to him and chatted to him, but then the next time I saw Ashley, we took trips to Adelaide, he says, what did you talk about me about? I met that pastor fellow and he knew all about me.

And he knew just from the one time he met him on the steps of the church, see all the people, 400 people in that church will be coming out, and he met Ashley just on the steps, a brief conversation, and about five years later remembers it, and as he meets him in the middle of Adelaide. Now Alan Tinsley had an expertise with people, and he ran his church and he blessed his church by this fact that he always remembered every detail about your life, and that was basically the thing that he did. He went to every meeting of the church, and he'd drop in just for, he was a very big man, with a big deep voice, and he'd drop in and wave his hand at the door, hello everybody, and he'd spend five minutes there at every meeting. In fact that dropping into a meeting and just being there for five minutes got to be called putting in a Tinsley, same as Alan Tinsley. And I've struck people using that term up here, because I spread it, we call about his putting in a Tinsley, but there's other pastors who, over in America where I was often attending a very big church in Chicago, in Wheaton, near Wheaton College, this particular man, he didn't wander out of his office.

He used to spend his time just doing all the administration in the office and preparing his messages, and if you had an appointment to go and see him, and you got there five minutes late, he wouldn't let you in. Oh well, not five minutes, but I got a bit late because it was snowing once, and I couldn't get through the snow and get there in time, and he says, oh no, your time was back then, I've got much more to do. And I thought, wow, what a pastor, I didn't really think much of him at all. But the truth was, where he did spend his time, he was very successful. So even within a particular gift that you might call being a pastor, or you might call being someone who is an encourager, or someone who has a gift of evangelism, or someone whose gift may be in hospitality, the people who do it can also be distinguished from each other, because there's one spot in the Bible that talks about in any given gift there are many different workings, and although that's a bit hard to interpret, and there might be other good interpretations other than the one I've jumped to, but I take that to mean that within any given area of persons who have similar gifts, like being a pastor or being a hospitality person, there are various ways that God has taught them how to do it, and so there are different workings. Just recently, this year, I've been doing this course, training up to be a professional supervisor.

I won't go into that anymore, but I go down to the Gold Coast, and Russell Hines, who's been a pastor down there, he sits in his house with his Zoom screen up, the fellow who takes the courses in New South Wales somewhere, and there's about a dozen or ten to twelve people who largely are counsellors and psychiatrists and that sort of thing. They're doing the course, and Russell and I sit there. Because we use Zoom, there's just one spot for us on the Zoom, and there are two faces and the others, they're nearly all women, they call us the twins, which is a funny, never mind about why that's a bit stupid, because Russell is short and a lot bigger than me, fatter, I mean, sorry, I can't correct that. Oh no, I'll get Lachlan to wipe it out of the record. Anyway, there are differing gifts, but within each gift, there might be a range of different ways that people do it. And it's talking here about God's varied grace. See it there in verse ten, as each has received a gift, use it to serve one another as God's good stewards of God's varied grace, the varied gifts. So don't expect that you'll find what God uses you for to be exactly like necessarily another person. You can be encouraged by meeting someone with a similar gift that you might have, but find out exactly how God uses you.

What you do is that you see what happens. The gift can be defined by something that continually turns up. Don't say you've got a gift when it's only ever happened once, because God sometimes uses any of us for unusual things, but when something keeps on happening and you find it seems natural to you to do, and God's blessing is in it, that's a bit of an indication that you might have in that area of spiritual gift. Well it's talking about the fact that they're varied, but they're to be used for the good to serve one another. And so the purpose of the gifts is not something just to give you a good status, not something just for you to feel that you're someone who's enjoying doing it. The purpose is always for outside of you or further than you, broader than you, to serve one another. And this is actually using language which keeps occurring in the scriptures called one another spots. And you can actually find probably a dozen or so places where the Bible talks about using the language of one another, where to love one another. There's a whole host of them, and it's a good study to do if ever you have opportunity to look up all the one another passages, because they always shine a light on the purpose of what is being talked about in the passage, and in this case the purpose of spiritual gifts is for the blessing of others in the body, therefore the one another, the other people.

Now moving further in the passage, not only is there a wonderful thing about the gifts being so varied, but it does talk about them in a way that makes me realise that the exact nature of your gift, if you take it's the very gift what it is, and also the workings, the style that God has given to you, may be a lot more rare in your local church than you imagine. I think that that is the case, that there's not a whole host of people who have exactly the same gift. I think they're rare, and what does that mean? Think of it for a moment. I think what it means is that if you don't ever get to do what is the special gift God's given you, it's going to be missing to some degree. If you don't do it when you're the one that's being given a special gift, then that might not just happen. It's not necessarily the case, there may be others who would then fill in the blank, as it were, in the operation of the church, but I think that our, not our church, this one, but I'm talking about our Christian church, does display the facts that often there are gifts that don't seem to be visible, and there can be things that are missing in church life, because there is someone that has the gift, but they prefer to have their Christianity that they go along and get a good intake on themselves once a week, but they're missing from the action at other times. What your gift is may be something that's missing in the fellowship. Sometimes there are eras where the way people think and the way people in churches have ideas as to what's going on about the gifts, there are some people who think they're not for this generation, which I find the most amazing belief to have.

Why does our Bible have so many passages talking about them? When you talk to people who say, well, the gifts are not for today, what's really fascinating about it is that when did the Bible get, actually, when did we get our scriptures that we presently have today, when were the various books finally understood to belong, when, we call that, when was the canon defined? The canon means the ones tested to be the ones that are the books that should be in the scriptures. Well, at the very time that there was a lessening of the operation of gifts, and because there were less gifts happening, you'd have to believe that the gifts all got recognized the very time that the Bibles become recognized to tell you about them, which is stupid, because the scriptures get to be understood to be the scriptures and the number of books that included the Protestant understanding of that came about in about the third century, just at a time when, according to some people, the gifts stopped being used. That's rather uneconomical of God, don't you think, to finally get his book, the Bible, finished, telling all about the use of the gifts, including this passage, just at a time when no longer are the gifts being happening.

You get the point? So although there are varied people, people have varied doctrines as to which gifts are around today and which are not, nonetheless, be a bit cautious at trying to believe that something is not for today when the very way you know that is by reading a book which only got to be understood to be God's book at the time that they're meant to stop. And I think that tells me that gifts probably are meant to be more often than what we recognize. Now you can get into different streams of Christianity, and unfortunately other people often dub you in or say that you are this and that. I have a big problem when I went to study in Dallas Seminary. They thought I was a charismatic and told me at first I couldn't get accepted in the doctoral program because I was too charismatic. And then later on I tried to go somewhere else and they were off-colour the other place I went. This is a bit of time in between. And so Michelle actually started her program of studies, and I would read the books while I looked after the kids while she was off at lectures, but the books were saying all sorts of stupid things that I knew were wrong, things that were what you call theologically liberal. They didn't believe in Christ as who he is, and they didn't believe this and that, and they believed that homosexuality was okay, and there was a whole host of things that I had disagreement with.

So I decided to leave. And I rang up my old seminary, the one at Dallas that thought I was too charismatic, and they said, oh, come on down, we'll accept you now over the phone and we'll have a meeting with you when you get here and you can start straight away. And I went down there, and when I'd already started, they had a meeting with me to get me properly accepted. The first thing they said, one of the leaders said, well, Jim, we don't mind accepting charismatics now. Oh, goodness. Why is that funny for me? Because back in Australia, at the college where I taught, I was looked at as a conservative who was non-charismatic, because the ones who were thinking so wanted a different style or, I don't know, a different type of charismata. And so from America, I'm being shot at from the right, and from Australia, I'm being shot at from the left, and I realised that in Christianity, there are different opinions, and often people have opinions of the other people, which is based only on a big guess and based on sometimes little tests that they have as to what defines who. Decide to make up your own mind from what the Bible says, because at least then you'll be an attempted biblical theologian if you believe the Bible.

And I believe the scriptures teach the existence of the gifts, and we don't have a first Peter to tell us just what I'm talking on tonight. If it were not to be for the benefit that it should be for us here in this church, and the passage is talking about all of us having a gift, and we're to use them as good stewards, and they're a varied list of gifts, varied race. He goes on to say, whoever speaks, so the gifts include some which are speaking gifts, but not all gifts of the Spirit have to do with speaking. There are gifts of the Spirit that have to do with other things, discernment of spirits, for example. There's gifts to do with encouragement of others. I guess you probably do that with speaking, but not public speaking. And there are gifts to do with intercession and prayer, and things that happen behind the scenes. There are all sorts of different gifts, but some of them have to do with speaking, but not all. But don't assume that you should find your spiritual gift amongst always being a public speaker or being someone that's teaching Sunday school. They are not the only places where there might be gifts to do with speaking.

But it does say, whoever speaks, as one who speaks the oracles of God. Now what is an oracle of God? That sounds very old-fashioned language. It's talking about there being a thunderous comment coming from heaven. It's talking about there being some saying that should be quoted, God said, God said. And what is it about an oracle of God that gets it to be called that way is that it's a statement, an assertion that's coming by revelation. An oracle of God is where God speaks. When we have the scriptures and we open them, there is an authority that comes because it is the Word of God. I count on it, and I am right now tonight, knowing I was coming along to speak on this passage, that I'm counting on it being more than just a teaching exercise. I used to be a teacher, I know what being a teacher is like, and I know that being a teacher is a mental thing and there's certain little skills you develop how to do it, but it's not the same as being a schoolteacher, I want to tell you. Being a schoolteacher is all done through the knowledge and through the scheme that you have of your curriculum and whatever, but it's something different to be someone who speaks the Word of God, the oracles of God.

And so to liken the fact that if you're a good school teacher, don't necessarily think that you should therefore immediately become a preacher. You will have overlapping, of course, the fact that you can put a talk together, and we have people in our church who are very good at talking because in their actual careers, we've got some who at Griffith University are lecturers, and I listen in to when they do things in the church, they know how to put words together, well that's natural, isn't it? But that doesn't equate to being someone who has a spiritual gift to speak. And so you can get mixed up thinking that what the speaking is just like an intellectual delivery. There's nothing wrong with intellectual deliveries, but that doesn't add up to the same thing as speaking the oracles of God. It's the authority that comes with the oracles of God, and that authority is because the scriptures are inspired of God, and if you speak what God says, it has a far greater effect than when you say, I'll give you my theories on things.

It's always a bit of a boring, I think, if you have to listen to, and there are many churches if you went there Sunday by Sunday, what you'd hear is just that one man or woman's idea as to what they want to say. But if you want to have the oracles of God, the actual action for you to get to do that, it starts in prayer, and it comes about because there's a moment where a certainty comes as to what God once said, or an inspiration that comes from which passage to open. And to the degree that God is speaking through it, that is the oracles of God, and one of the ways to get to be, if you feel that you're someone who's called to speak, or you're called to teach the word of God, then is to do it by faith, and to have it as a mindset as you approach the task, Lord, I want you to speak to someone this time. I want you to be in it. Please show me what to teach on, what to speak on, and you turn it from being just like a school exercise, or an intellectual exercise, into being what this is talking about here. But this is giving the encouragement that if your gift, spiritual gift, is in speaking, then you should attend to seeing if you can't get to do better speaking the oracles of God. Whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies.

Now what we're getting a window in here on the fact that all spiritual gifts actually have something in common, that they're done by the help of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the Christian who is operating the gift. And if you're a Christian and you have a gift, what that needs for you for it to really work well is to be walking after the Spirit, and not doing it in your own strength. Until we get to heaven, we're always going to have a struggle with the flesh against the Spirit. The flesh is you and your human strength, which really comes from your background in Adam, or the Spirit, which is the Holy Spirit. And learning how to walk after the Spirit, and learning how to be filled with the Spirit, learning how to be a person, when you're doing it, you're doing it relying on the power of the Holy Spirit, and not on your own strength. And there's a certain amount of maturity of Christian growth that has to happen to you that you learn not to do it in your own strength. We often have Andrew Oddy coming here to speak, and I like to bring him because he often speaks and there is a sense of authority that he has in his speaking.

He came from my church in Adelaide, and when he first got keen, I got him to speak at different things to see what he might be good for. We had a boys' brigade down there, and I used to get him to speak at the boys' brigade, and he was terrible. I don't mind saying this, and you can tell him I said it at first, because he'll agree. But he just didn't know, somehow, how to get into the clique of being a spiritual speaker. And actually there was a time when we took the young people away in teams for ministry, there were two teams, and Michelle took one that had Andrew in it, and she got him to do some things, and there was a moment when somehow Andrew recognised, when he was taking his turn, that he had a problem that just wasn't happening. And it's like the Lord spoke to him and said, Andrew, get off the stage. Get off the stage, meaning by that is somehow, as always was, he's a very big personality sort of person, it always was him presenting himself. Not just the idea of him mentioning illustration about himself, but somehow he was doing it to do it. I don't know how to word it anymore, but I'm reporting what he's told me. But God said to him to get off the stage, to give over at being what he's doing, and to trust in what God does.

And again in a later time he went over to Amsterdam, some of us went where there was the evangelism conference, and God spoke to him about trusting in the Holy Spirit to be the one who speaks through you. And ever since he came back, he has a lot of fruit of people who respond to his message because somehow or other he's learned how to speak the oracles of God. So if you're someone in that part of giftedness, then that's a very big thing to be told. Whoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies is just a bit more generality of statement, the particularity with the person who's speaking the oracles of God, is how you get to speak the oracles of God is seeking to find out how to be filled with the Spirit in your speaking. But if your gift is to serve, how to be filled with the Spirit in your serving. And there are people who usually they'll end up telling you this when they've found it out across time, so often they're older people, but tell you how they know to be used of God and to help people when they serve people. And there are some people who you may not realise this, but who are very gifted to be led of God to do things just at the moment when some poor person needs it.

And when we were very needy people when we were overseas not having any money and that, there were times when Michelle got in difficult scenes that needed help, when some American woman would come up to her, I remember her coming home, she went somewhere to a Bible study, I can't remember the details of it, but we had no food left in the house. And as she parked the car in the churchyard, there was a particular church had something on, and this other woman came and parked her car and asked Michelle to come over to her. The other woman opened up what they call the trunk, the boot of the car, and she had a whole lot of groceries, and she said, these are for you. Michelle had never seen it before. Little later on, when we realised how God had supplied exactly the ones that she was knowing she needed for the family, Michelle tried to go back to the same Bible study to thank the lady. They didn't know who she was talking about. She described them in the car that she was making out she was coming to the Bible study and just ran into Michelle, and they said, we don't know who that is.

It opened a question to me, it might have been an angel, it could have been, but most likely it was someone whose ministry was to serve, and they learned how to serve it under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. People who help others in the Christian church, and they have such a kick out of doing it because when they find out that the person has particularly been praying for what they should help with, or they've been asking for wisdom or knowledge or teaching on just what they needed to know, and someone else came and did it, what a thing that does to you. The same thing happens if you're led of God to talk to someone and you just get it in your head, there's someone you know, so you go and ring them up on the phone, and somehow or other they were just needing that phone call, and it is because in that area you the Christian have a gift in that spot, and you learn to increase in it by how you learn to do it in the strength that God supplies, in order that in everything God may be glorified.

Of course it does have the outcome that when you realise at home and you tell your family that you praise God for what he has done, it's not something to boast about, it is something to be boasted about, that God has done, look what God has done, and it always makes the fellowship rich when you can share something that's come from the Lord, and so this is what the passage is saying, whosoever serves as one who serves by the strength that God supplies, where you would know you're doing wrong is if you say look what I've done, other people couldn't do it that good, you're getting off the track, it's not having something happen because of the strength that God supplies. Alright, so the end result of all of this is as we increase in knowing what is our gift, knowing how to practise it, the Bible says that we are to stir up the gift that lies within you. If you're saying to yourself while I'm talking, well I don't even know what gift I have, it doesn't mean that there's not one, it might be that you've never got to the stage of maturity of finding it, and then of stirring it up, and one of the things you do once you discover your gift is to look for ways to practise it, and to try on different ways of doing it as far as the workings are concerned, and God will show you, lead you to know exactly what is your thing to do. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Let me pray.

Heavenly Father, thank you for our church and thank you for the fact that as members of the bodies of Christ, there is a varied set of gifts that you've spread across us. Father, thank you for them and help us to find what is our place in the body of Christ, as defined by finding our gift. Help us to know just how you want it to suit in with the person that we are, the very workings of that. Bless, Lord, this in our church we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.

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