“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20 NIV
For those who don’t know, this verse is called the “Great Commission”. Jesus appeared to the disciples after the resurrection and gave them this instruction or mission. Basically, it is a call to spread the message of Jesus throughout the world. The disciples were eyewitnesses to everything that Jesus did on earth. They were His ambassadors commissioned to carry out His ministry, and that commission is passed down to all of His followers throughout history and to us today. Of course we can’t “make” anyone do anything, so it’s not telling us to do it by force. We are called to share Jesus with the world. For those who receive and accept the message and believe are baptized which is an outward display of spiritual or inward cleansing from sin. Our sins are washed away. We are also called to teach, train, and encourage those who believe to be faithful followers obeying Jesus commands, which includes Biblical training and study. How can you obey if you don’t know the commands or what is expected as a follower?
According to Pew Research in 2015, there were approximately 2.3 billion Christians around the world, so we aren’t alone as we carry out the Great Commission. When Jesus started His ministry, He didn’t have any followers. No one knew who He was. They didn’t know that He was the Messiah, God incarnate, or God in the flesh. As we all know it didn’t take long for people to believe and follow Him. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like to hear Him speak, teach, or spend time with Him. We don’t know much about His personality. Since Jesus was God was He great at everything? Obviously, He was a great communicator and leader. I can only assume, because He was God, that He had ALL of the necessary gifts, talents, and skills to be perfect at everything. I doubt that one could say, “Jesus was a great speaker and leader, but He was a terrible golfer”. He had IT ALL! I mean, how many organizations can say that they’ve been around for over 2,000 years? On the signs outside our churches, it should read “Established in 30AD” or whenever Jesus started His ministry. I know that I’m being sarcastic, but He was the GREATEST OF ALL TIME!
Unfortunately, we are not great at everything. We aren’t perfect. Each of us is uniquely created with a certain set of aptitudes and skills. Of course any skill can be developed over time, but there are certain things that we are naturally gifted to do. These gifts are God given for a specific purpose to glorify and serve Him, to carry out the Great Commission. Contrary to what our culture and the world believe, our ultimate or sole purpose in life does not include, money, power, or self-indulgence. God understand that we have needs for survival, but ultimately we are created to love God and enjoy Him forever, to be in relationship with Him. So, everything we do is supposed to be for His glory. Everything we do is supposed to point to and glorify God not ourselves. God has gifted all of us to do that, but in different ways. It can take a while to figure out and develop our “spiritual gifts”. They can even change over time to a certain degree, but as soon as we believe or become “disciples” we’re called to “go”, to share our faith, and to use our gifts to carry out the Great Commission. Our FOCUS shifts from ourselves to God and His calling on our lives. Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24 NIV)
So what are these “spiritual gifts” that I am supposed to be using for God’s glory? I’m not a preacher, teacher, leader, or musician, so what am I supposed to do? Well, I’m glad you asked because there is an entire chapter in the Bible dedicated to spiritual gifts, and how those spiritual gifts can be used in a team effort to carry out the Great Commission. The “team” is the church or the “body of Christ” by the way, but you probably already knew that. In 1 Corinthians 12, the Apostle Paul tells us about spiritual gifts, then in 1 Corinthians 13 He shares the greatest or most important gift that we all possess. Are you ready? Go ahead and read 1 Corinthians 12.
Let’s start with the Paul’s introduction to spiritual gifts.
“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed. You know that when you were pagans, somehow or other you were influenced and led astray to mute idols. Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” 1 Corinthians 12:1-6 NIV
I love how Paul begins his explanation. He says, “I don’t want you to be uninformed”. Other translations say, “I don’t want you to be ignorant”. He wants us to know and understand. He wants us to study, FOCUS, and discover what our gifts are, what they mean, and where they come from.
One of my favorite Bible verses is 2 Timothy 2:15. It says, “Make an effort to present yourself to God as a tried-and-true worker, who doesn’t need to be ashamed but is one who interprets the message of truth correctly”. The King James Version of the Bible says, “Study to show yourself approved unto God”. Have you ever been ashamed or felt stupid in class because you didn’t do your homework? Or on the job and didn’t know what you were doing because you didn’t pay attention and learn what to do? Paul doesn’t want us to be uninformed, ignorant, or ashamed. He wants us to be well trained, informed, and yes we have homework. It’s called Bible study.
Also, It is important to know that only those who believe, who are disciples, receive these spiritual gifts. It doesn’t mean that unbelievers can’t do good things, but only those who have received the Holy Spirit can receive God’s spiritual gifts. Paul says, “You know when you were pagans…influenced and led astray to mute idols”, meaning the Holy Spirit was not present before they received the Holy Spirit.
Here are a few key things from Paul’s introduction to think about for next week’s devotional:
- The Holy Spirit has to be present for us to receive and use God’s spiritual gifts.
- The Holy Spirit is the one how distributes or gives spiritual gifts.
- There are different kinds of gifts, service, working, or ministry.
- All spiritual gifts come from the same place and only from one source, God. Not a god, but the God of the Bible.
Continue reading and meditating on 1 Corinthians 12. We’ll dive a little deeper into specific gifts and how they can be used within the body of Christ in our devotional next week.
Love y’all! Have a great weekend!
Weekly Devotional by Robby Morris, Director of Family Ministry & Facility Coordinator @ Andrews UMC.