Use Your Gifts To Serve

1 Peter 4:7-11 The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. 8 Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. 10 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks 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.

As you may have heard, Kyle and Johanna have finally received a referral for a five year old boy from Haiti. And as you know, adoption is often an expensive endeavor. Before the adoption process can continue the Puelstons are required to take a 15 day socialization trip to Haiti. All things included the trip will cost nearly $4000. As a church we have an amazing opportunity and responsibility to come alongside them in this.

James 1:27 says, “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

As Christians we want more than anything to honor God with our lives. In this simple passage, one simple means of doing so is made plain: visit orphans in their affliction. Not everyone is in a place to obey this command by taking in or adopting an orphan. The Puelstons are. Therefore, the rest of us get and need to help them in every way possible.

You will be hearing more about how to support them in prayer and finances in the near future. In the mean time, please feel free to bless them and their future son by making a donation HERE. Kyle will be providing a more personal update at the end of the service.

As I mentioned last week, this year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. While seeds for the Reformation were planted long before Martin Luther, the Reformation is generally thought to have begun with the publication of Luther’s 95 Theses. The 95 theses were a list of 95 formal, theological abuses Luther had witnessed in the Church. His aim in writing and distributing these was to stir debate and reform from within the Church. What actually followed went well beyond Luther and anything he could have imagined when he nailed his theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg.

Eventually, the battle cry of the Reformation came to be understood in terms of five “solas”. That is, the central convictions of Luther and the Reformers, and the main points of disagreement they had with the church at Rome, were identified by five main doctrines (solas):

  1. Sola scriptura (by Scripture alone).
  2. Sola Deo gloria (glory to God alone).
  3. Sola fide (by faith alone).
  4. Sola gratia (by grace alone).
  5. Solo Christo (through Christ alone).

To honor the importance of the Reformation I mean to give a very brief introduction for each of the five solas in the coming weeks. Last week I highlighted the first sola, sola scriptura. The point, in case you missed it, is that Scripture alone is the necessary, sufficient, and authoritative source of knowledge for life and godliness.

This week, then, I want to highlight a second sola, sola Deo gloria (glory to God alone). As you will certainly see, this fits very well with our text for this morning. In short, the heart of this sola is that all things exist for the glory of God. That is, everything we do, even things as mundane as eating and drinking (1 Corinthians 10:31), and even things as significant as using our spiritual gifts to build up the Church (1 Peter 4:10-11), are meant to be done for the ultimate purpose of putting God’s glory on display. What’s more, not only is this to be the aim of all creation, it is the eternal aim of God himself. That is, sola Deo gloria is not only a description of what God’s people are made for, it is also a description of what God himself always has been, is, and will be about.

This sola is taught throughout the bible in passages like:

Isaiah 43:6-7 I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, 7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.”

Ephesians 1:4-6 [God] chose us in [Jesus] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace…

And, of course our passage for this morning reads, “in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Grace, here’s the thing: God’s commitment to his own glory, and his command that his creatures be so committed as well, is the greatest, most loving thing possible. In simplest terms: What you and I (along with all people) need most is that which is absolutely best. God is absolutely best. Therefore, the most loving thing God can do is display his glory and call us to see and savor it…which is exactly what this sola is meant to highlight.

During the Reformation, the leaders of the Roman Church were well known for going about their work for their own selfish gain. Their aim was often their own riches, comfort, power, and glory. The Reformers sought to do away with this idolatry and turn the focus of God’s people back to God. Sola Deo gloria!

The Word of God alone is the standard for all things and the glory of God alone is the goal of all things. Next week we’ll consider the fact that faith alone is means by which we gain access to Christ’s atoning work and righteousness.

With that, let’s turn to our text and the final direct command of the passage.

As is the case with any passage, in order to truly understand this passage we must consider the context. At the beginning of v.7 Peter informed his readers that “the end of all things is at hand”. What does that mean? It means that they were (and we are) living during the time between Jesus’ first and second coming. The two main points of significance of this fact are: 1) It marks a time of persecution for Jesus’ followers, and 2) It marks a time of certain victory for Jesus’ followers. In other words, by reminding his readers that the end of all things is at hand, Peter wanted them to know why they were experiencing such hardship (because Jesus did) and why they need not fear it (because Jesus’ cross makes death gain).

In light of that perspective Peter issued four direct commands (three of which had a specific reason attached to them). 1) (v.7) “Be self-controlled and sober-minded…for the sake of your prayers”, 2) (v.8) “above all, keep loving one another earnestly….since love covers a multitude of sins”, 3) (v.9) “show hospitality to one another…without grumbling”, and now 4) (vs.10-11) “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another…in order that in everything God may be glorified…”.

In order to help you appreciate this passage I’d like to share something with you about my personal bible reading. When I come to a passage in the bible two things almost always happen almost instantaneously. First, I try to wrap my mind around the basic argument of the passage. That is, I do my best to understand the author’s main point and logic behind it. The second thing that happens is that questions about the text begin to flood into my mind. The results vary. Sometimes the argument is easy to see and sometimes it’s not. Likewise, sometimes the text quickly and explicitly answers my questions and sometimes it doesn’t.

If I don’t get in the way, I think you’ll be impressed by the fact that in a fairly unique way, both the logic of this passage and the answers to your questions about it, are almost immediately and explicitly available. In fact, I’ve not encountered many passages that cover so much, so clearly, and so practically; such that we need to go word by word because every word drips with simple, straight-forward meaning and help and glory.

With that, here are ten truths from nineteen words in one verse (v.10) concerning how and why God’s people are to think about and use our gifts in light of the fact that the end of all things is at hand.

  1. The kind of gift mentioned by Peter is a Spiritual gift. “As each has received a gift…”. The word translated gift (charisma) is one most often translated “spiritual gift”. It is where we get the word “charismatic”. And it is, as Paul calls it, a “manifestation of the [Holy] Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:6). This is made even more clear by the fact, as we will see shortly, that Peter connects the gift with God’s grace. The significance of this is in the fact that these are not natural gifts. They are given by God, through his Spirit, for his purposes.
  2. All of God’s people have gifts. “As each has received a gift…”. If you are a Christian, you have the kind of Spiritual gift that Peter refers to in this passage. We’ll quickly get to the nature of the gift, but for now contemplate the reality that insofar as you are truly trusting in Jesus, every one of you, just like everyone of Peter’s readers, has this kind of gift.
  3. Our gifts are ours from conversion. Peter did not write, “as each may have received a gift.” And he did not write “as each will receive a gift.” He wrote “As each has received a gift…”. Given the fact that Peter was writing to many different Christians, in many different places, from many different backgrounds, and with many different spiritual ages, how was he able to confidently assert that all had already received a gift? It is because the kind of gifts Peter wrote about belong to all Christians from the moment of conversion. When people come to faith in Jesus we are given a gift as part of our new life in Christ.
  4. Gifts are received. “As each has received a gift…”. The spiritual gifts Peter wrote about are not discovered (out there floating around until we locate them). They are not (initially) developed (I didn’t know how to show hospitality and so I worked at it until I did). They are not prayed into existence or strived after. Gifts, in this sense, are given by God. That is, they are simply “received” from God through no effort of our own.
  5. Gifts are to be used. “As each has received a gift, use it…”. Our God-given gifts are not to be kept on a shelf or stored up for later use. In these last days especially, they are to be used. We’ll come back to this at the end, but give thought now to what your gifts are and whether or not you are using them consistently.
  6. Gifts are to be used for the purpose for which they were given. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve…”. It is not up to us to determine what our gifts are for. They are not for personal gain (sola Deo gloria), a sense of individual fulfillment, to make money, or to earn God’s favor. On the horizontal level, as this passage makes abundantly clear, our gifts are for a single purpose: to serve others.
  7. Gifts are to be used to build up the Church. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another…”. The primary purpose of our gifts is to build up and strengthen (to serve) God’s people in the gospel. This is both a definition and a test. It is a definition in that it tells us what gifts are for. It is a test in that it lets us know what our gifts actually are. I might feel like I have the gift of music, but if it doesn’t cause the church to actually grow in the gospel, I’m mistaken. Likewise, I might not like being up front but if when I am God’s people grow in their love for God, that is my gift.
  8. Gifts are ours to steward. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards…”. Our gifts are given to us by God, but that does not mean they belong to us. We are stewards—managers—of our gifts, not owners. This knowledge is humbling and refining.
  9. Our gifts vary in nature and strength. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…”. From one Christian to another God’s gifts vary. For his glory and the good of his Church, God does not give the same gifts or the same strength of gifts to everyone. This knowledge ought to keep us from wishing God had gifted us differently and cause us to joyfully use the gifts he did give in proportion to our giftedness.
  10. Our gifts are not deserved. “As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace…”. We saw earlier that our gifts are received from God, not discovered or developed. We see here that our gifts are received according to God’s grace, not deserved. We do not receive gifts from God because we worked our way to an advanced stage of Christian maturity or as a reward from God for some good thing we accomplished. Our gifts are according to God’s good pleasure, by his grace.

The first half of v.11 is meant simply to restate the truths taught in v. 10. “Whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies…”. That is, when we rightly understand what Peter wrote in v.10, whatever our gifts are (whether speaking or serving or whatever), we will speak and serve in such a way that is in total submission to God and humbly acknowledges that any good fruit that comes, comes only by the power of God.

Grace, more than once this week I marveled at the kindness and wisdom of God that we find in these two verses. That God sees fit to include his people in his redemptive, kingdom work is amazing. That our role is to use the gifts he gives us to display his glory is nothing short of awesome. That he gives such clear instructions and purposes is gracious beyond measure. These things are made even more amazing by the rest of the verse which gives the ultimate reason for all of this.

Do you see how remarkable this passage is? Do you see how instructive it is? Do you see how practical it is? Most importantly, do you see why all of this is?

Peter 4:10-11 As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: 11 whoever speaks, as one who speaks 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.

God gives gifts. God gives purpose to his gifts. God gives the grace to use them fruitfully. God gives oracles. God gives strength. All so that God would get endless glory through the Lord Jesus Christ.

Next week, in the final sermon on this passage, we’ll unpack the second half of v.11 and consider the infinite glory of God. For now, rejoice with me in fact that God is on a never-ending, intergalactic mission to display his glory in Jesus to every corner of creation during every minute of eternity. Rejoice with me that this is the best news we could possibly hope for. If God’s commitment to his glory were anything less than infinite and eternal all would be lost. We would have no hope and all beauty and meaning and goodness and truth would implode on itself.

But thanks be to God that this will never be so. And thanks be to God that we, through using our God-given, God-empowered, cross-purchased, Holy-Spirit manifested gifts can participate in this conspiracy of glory by serving the people of God. Let’s close, then, by considering two aspects of putting all of this into practice.

There is a lot more that could be said then I will say here. And yet, I hope these two simple charges help you as you consider obeying Peter’s command, which still holds for the people God who are still in the last days.

Avoid Confusion
The first piece of practical insight I’d like to offer is to beware of, and avoid, common misunderstandings concerning spiritual gifts.

Don’t confuse personal preferences with giftedness. “I like playing the guitar” isn’t the same as “the church is built up when I play the guitar.” We see this in Acts when Simon (the magician) wanted the same gifts as he saw in the Apostles. In fact, he desired their gifts so much that he offered them money to impart their gift to him. He preferred a particular gift, but his heart and the frustration that he caused the church told otherwise.

Don’t confuse giftedness with personal preference. “I don’t like leading youth ministry” isn’t the same as “the church isn’t built up when I lead youth ministry.” It seems that Timothy had a gift that he was reluctant to use. It actually appears he was afraid to use it. Nevertheless, Paul calls it a gift and urges Timothy not to neglect it, but instead to fan it into flame.

Don’t confuse the appreciation of others with giftedness. People may believe you are a good speaker. People may enjoy listening to you. People may compliment your speaking ability. But none of those things are necessarily synonymous with spiritual gifting. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 4, in fact, that we should expect people to seek out gifted speakers who will scratch their ears. If your speaking doesn’t cause people to discernibly grow in Christ, it is not a spiritual gift.

Don’t confuse commands with giftedness. Not every Christian has the gift of evangelism but every Christian has the charge to evangelize. We must obey God’s commands because we’ve received his gift of eternal life. Bearing inexplicable fruit in our obedience is what God does through our particular, individual gifts.

Just Obey Something
The second piece of practical insight I’d like to offer is this: just obey something.

In general, you can’t know your gifts (the kind Peter is referring to anyway) through a test, personal introspection, or soliciting the opinions of others. As I said earlier, knowledge of the purpose of spiritual gifts (to build up the Church in the gospel), means that the only real way we can know what our gifts are is by obeying God’s commands inside the church and taking note of the results.

There is a place for asking ourselves the common questions concerning gifts (What am I good at? What do people tend to compliment me on? What do I get asked to do regularly? Etc.), but let me suggest a more biblical pair of questions: 1) What are the corporate commands of God that I need to give more attention to? and 2) What gospel-oriented needs does my church currently have?

By giving ourselves to the things God has already called us to do in connection with the church, particularly to meeting Her real, visible needs, we ought to find peace and joy in the knowledge that these are good, God-glorifying, and Church-strengthening things. As we are increasingly characterized by this life of simple obedience, I have no doubt that some acts of obedience will rise to the top in terms of how effectively they serve the saints in Christian growth—those are our gifts.

When you read vs. 10-11 what questions come to mind? What exactly are the gifts Peter wrote about? Who has them? Where did we get them? When did we get them? What are they for? How do we know what they are? Every one of these questions is answered in straight-forward fashion.

What is the gist of Peter’s argument in vs.10-11? Again, in an unusually accessible way, we see that he meant to help his readers (including you and I) honor God in our trials by properly using his gifts to help his people in the uniquely challenging circumstances surrounding the end of all things.

And all of this to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Amem.