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Divinely Designed to Serve, Part 1
Bruce A. Hess
Open the Word of God with me, please, and turn to Ephesians, chapter 2. Ephesians, chapter 2 in the New Testament. We are starting a new series today, which is entitled, “Divinely Designed to Serve.” I am going to be sharing with you some very important Biblical perspective that I first shared with the church some sixteen years ago. This is information and perspective that is very exciting to me. I get really pumped when I have the opportunity to do that. I pray that it will be encouraging to you.
The information that we are going to be looking at today is something that I wish I had heard about early in my spiritual life. I did not really know this stuff for many, many years. So, whether you are a young believer or whether you are a seasoned believer, I think you will find value in this series that we are going to be spending five weeks working our way through.
As we begin our time together, we are going to focus on a particular truth today. That truth is this: God is the Master Creator. God is the one who makes masterpieces. Here is what I want you to do, I want you to think for a moment and when you think of God’s handiwork in the world, what divine works of art come to your mind?
Now, some of you might be saying, well, what comes to my mind is a majestic mountain scene, and we have a beautiful picture here of an incredible mountain scene. When you think about God’s handiwork in the world, maybe you think about that kind of a work of art—a majestic mountain scene.
Some of you, though, might be thinking a little differently. Maybe you think about a sunset with the sky ablaze with all kinds of colors. I have a couple of pictures here of some sunsets…plus a couple more. Look at the beautiful colors that decorate those sunsets. So, when you think of God’s handiwork in the world, maybe you think about—hey a divine work of art is a sunset with the sky ablaze with color.
Some of you might go in a little bit of a different direction. You might say, when I think about God’s handiwork in the world what you might think about would be snowflakes, the intricate, delicate design of snowflakes. By the way, these pictures we have up are microscopic pictures of real snowflakes. We have those first two, but then I have a couple of others that I found, real snowflakes. You can see the intricate design and the delicate design of snowflakes.
I don’t know who figured this out, but they said if you would take snowfall and you would average it out evenly throughout the whole year, in other words, rather than just in the winter, snow would fall evenly all throughout the year, they figured out that there would be a million billion snowflakes that would fall each second. Just think about that intricate design that God has designed into snowflakes.
That may be what you think about when you think of God’s handiwork and His work of art. But one of the most under-appreciated divine masterpieces, one of the most under-appreciated and overlooked works of art that God has designed would be…you…and would be me.
Now, I know we have a number of younger people with us this morning. How many people who are younger were at VBS [Wildwood’s children’s vacation bible school]? Let me see some hands. So, I see some hands spread around here, great. If you came to VBS, you would know that over the four days of VBS there were four truths that were emphasized. Truth number one was, “I am made in the image of God.” Remember that, those of you who were at VBS? Then, truth number four of the week of VBS, Vacation Bible School, was “I was made for a purpose.”
A foundation passage we want to look at today—as we begin our study about how we are divinely designed to serve—is Ephesians, chapter number 2. Those first ten verses can break down into these three sections. In Ephesians 2, we have:
In verses 1-3, Our Deep Dilemma, without God.
Then, in verses 4-9, we have God’s Wonderful Salvation Work that He did on our behalf.
Then, in verse 10, He talks about His Masterful Design.
I just want to summarize those verses, just look at them again. It talks about, in those first three verses, Our Deep Dilemma. We were dead in our trespasses and sins, without Jesus, in verse 1. It says we used to live our life in accordance to the course of the world and according to the prince of the power of the air, that is Satan. We were sons of disobedience. We would, verse 2, indulge in the desires of what our bodies demanded and of our mind. We were children of wrath.
But then we come down to verses 4-9, where it says, “But God, being rich in mercy, (did a great thing) “He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, (verse 5) He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…He seated us with Him in the heavenly places.” (Verse 6) He did all this so that, in verse 7, “So that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us.” Then, we have those familiar verses, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift that God gave to us, (that’s salvation) “not as a result of works, so that no one could go around boasting at all.”
Then, we come, in Ephesians 2, to His Masterful Design…His masterful design for us. What I want to do this morning is to zoom in on verse 10. I want to drink in verse 10.
Notice again what it says in verse 10. It says, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works (That is an amazing statement here) which God prepared beforehand so that we (as followers of Jesus) would walk in them.”
Let’s just zoom in on the verse. When it is talking about ‘we’ who is included in the “we”? Well, those of us who know Jesus as our Rescuer from sin and judgment. The ‘we’ would be all of us who are following Jesus. He says there that we are His workmanship. A very interesting word. That word was used in the Greek language, outside of the Bible, to describe the work of a craftsman. It was used to describe a work of art. So that word, interestingly enough, only occurs two times in all the New Testament, one time here and the other time in Romans, chapter 1, and verse 20, where it is addressing and describing what God made in creation. We are His workmanship. Like a majestic mountain. Like a blazing sunset. Like an intricate snowflake. We are His workmanship.
What I want you to notice, and this is something that doesn’t come through in English, because you can’t do it the same way in English that you can in the New Testament language. This word ‘His,’ we are His workmanship, is very emphatic in the original language. We would maybe double underline it. We, those who know Jesus as our Rescuer, who follow Jesus, we are His workmanship. His workmanship!! The NIV says, “We are God’s handiwork.” The New Living Translation says, “We are God’s masterpiece.” The idea is that we are God’s spiritual work of art. Now that is astonishing to think about!
Often when we wake up in the morning, we’re not thinking that way: I am God’s handiwork, I am God’s masterpiece, I am His spiritual work of art. When God makes a work of art, the idea is not that the work of art would just sort of sit idly on a shelf somewhere. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for a purpose, for good works. For good works. We are divinely designed to serve. We are His masterpiece in that regard, His handiwork.
Then, you will notice it says there, which is an amazing statement, “Which God prepared beforehand.” Think about that. Before we were born, He had already designed us to serve. Before we even knew Him as our Savior, He had divinely designed us to serve. “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand.” For what reason? “So that we should walk in them.” We could translate it, so that we should live them out. It is an amazing statement, an amazing statement.
Harold Hoehner was one of my professors in seminary, in fact, he helped me manage my way through the thesis that I had to write. Here is what he says about this, he says, “God has prepared beforehand good works for believers [now notice this] that He will perform in and through them as they walk by faith in His power. [He clarifies] It is not doing a work for God, [Wow! Look at this] but God doing a work in and through the believer.” It is astonishing stuff!
What does that mean? It means that all of us who are followers of Jesus are designed to minister to other people. Here is the idea that we need to get a handle on: the blessings that God has poured into my life and that God has poured into your life, are not to be merely a stagnant pool where those blessings are stored. The idea is that those blessings that God has poured into our life are to flow out to other people. They are to flow out to other people.
Now, I don’t know about you, but this is exciting stuff! I get highly motivated. Think about it. It is part of the eternal plan of God to use you. God has pre-planned a ministry that He wants you to do. Paul talks about this some in the book of Titus, in chapter 3, and verse 8. He is writing to Titus, who is leading the church, and he says, listen, “This is a trustworthy statement.” You can count on the fact that this is really accurate. And, he says to Titus, “Concerning these things, Titus, I want you to speak confidently.” (I want you to stand up before people and be excited about it.) “So that those who have believed God [notice this] will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things (us being careful to engage in these good deeds) are good and profitable.”
Then, a few verses down in verse 14 he says, “Our people [Who would be our people? Those who know Christ, those who are following Jesus as their Savior] Must also learn [So, there’s a process here, you see] to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that [What?] they will not be unfruitful in their spiritual life.” None of us want to be unfruitful in our spiritual life, do we? Well, we need to remember that God has divinely designed us to serve.
See, men and women, birds were designed to fly. Earthworms were designed to aerate the soil. We, as followers of Jesus, have been designed to serve, to serve God and others. Very important. We are Divinely Designed to Serve.
So, one of the questions we would ask ourselves, if I’ve been divinely designed to serve, what is God’s design for me? We are going to see that these are individual designs. What is God’s design for me? How did He shape me to serve Him and others, because He didn’t shape us all the same way. He shaped me a certain way. He shaped you a certain way. He designed you a certain way. He designed me a certain way. So, how did He shape me to serve Him and others?
What we are going to do in this series for this whole month is, we are going to look at an acrostic with the [English] word SHAPE. The “S” stands for something about how He divinely designed us. The “H” stands for something. The “A,” the “P,” and the “E” in the word SHAPE. All of that gives us insight into how God has divinely designed us to serve. So, what we are going to do is we are going to look at each letter of the alphabet of the word SHAPE, and we are going to unpack a little bit more of what it tells us about how we are divinely designed.
What does the “S” stand for? Well, we are going to look at this word, this English word, SHAPE, s-h-a-p-e, the “S” stands for spiritual gifts.
I love this quote from Ray Stedman, he said, “The whole subject of spiritual gifts is the lost treasure of Christianity. [That is an amazing statement to me] He says, “The church has been impoverished beyond belief by the prevailing ignorance of the existence of these spiritual riches.” Now, we don’t want to be ignorant of spiritual riches that God has given to us and that He has divinely designed us to serve with.
So, we are going to talk about spiritual gifts. We want this lost treasure to be a lost treasure no longer. If you are going to try to understand what the New Testament teaches about spiritual gifts, they are mentioned in a number of books in the New Testament, but they are concentrated, in particular, in four chapters in the New Testament. So, it is helpful to know—if we are going to learn about spiritual gifts—where do we go to learn about them? Well, there is a concentrated set of information in Romans 12, and in 1 Corinthians 12, and also in Ephesians 4 and 1 Peter 4. It is pretty easy to remember, you’ve got two 12’s and two 4’s. Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, 1Peter 4. That’s where we go to get the most information we can find in the New Testament about spiritual gifts.
Now, I want to begin with a spiritual gifts definition. This is a definition of what a spiritual gift is: It is a special spirit-given ability to serve Christ and others. It is a special spirit-given ability to serve Christ and others.
We are going to try to learn a little bit more about this idea of spiritual gifts and I want to share with us today Two Key Facts about spiritual gifts. Here we go: Key Fact number one is: God has given every believer a spiritual gift or gifts. Every single one of us who knows Jesus as our Savior, God has given every believer a spiritual gift or gifts, I think usually more than one.
What I would invite you to do is to turn with me to the book of 1 Corinthians and chapter number 12, because we are going to look at one of these passages. I’ll put these verses also up on the screen, but 1 Corinthians, chapter number 12. We are going to particularly be noting there verse 1; we are going to note verse 4; we are going to note verse 7; and we are going to note verse 11. God has given every believer a spiritual gift.
Now the Corinthians, if there was anybody who did not have a grip on spiritual gifts (even though they thought they did), it would be the Corinthians. They were, in fact, quite whacked out [deeply confused] when it came to spiritual gifts. So, when Paul is writing to them, the majority of believers in Corinth, he says in verse 1, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.” They were unaware, even though they thought they weren’t unaware. But, it is possible for us also to not really be aware of spiritual gifts.
Then, in verse 4, I want you to notice what he says there, he says, “There are varieties of gifts.” We did not all receive the same gifts. Everyone has received a gift, but there are varieties of gifts, there are different types of gifts.
Then, I want you to notice what it says in verse 7. Again, this is emphasized in the original language, “To each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” How many are left out of ‘each one’? Everyone is included. Each of us has been given a spiritual gift. You can double underline that again.
Then, I want you to notice what it says in verse 11. It talks about the Holy Spirit distributing to each one individually, just as He wills. It’s not that I get to claim a gift, I am given a gift and it is by the will of God, Himself. But He distributes to each one a manifestation of the Spirit for the common good, each one individually, as He wills. God has given every one of us a spiritual gift.
This is true whether you are a young follower of Jesus or whether you are an older follower of Jesus. This is true whether you are a brand-new follower of Jesus or whether you are a seasoned follower of Jesus. So, this key fact number one is: God has given every believer a spiritual gift.
That key fact is very important, because what it does is, it alleviates what I call the “I have nothing to offer” syndrome. The “I have nothing to offer syndrome.” Because that is the way some people, who follow Jesus, feel. Well, I’m not like Mark Robinson, I’m not like Brooke Harrison [Mark and Brooke are key staff members at Wildwood]. I don’t have those kinds of gifts, so I really have nothing to offer. Not true. Not true at all. You know, all of us have limitations, I have limitations. We all have limitations. Some of us, by the way, have some severe limitations.
Leslie Flynn tells a story that comes out of the country of Argentina. In Argentina, they had compulsory military service for all males. No one was allowed to opt out. You had to serve in the military. In fact, there was one individual who went to the induction center and said, Hey, I know there is compulsory military service, but what good would I be? I mean, I’ve got no arms. I was born with no arms. How could you ever use me? Well, they put him in the army anyway. He found out he was useful. At basic training camp, his commanding officer said to him, I want you to look up on that hill over there and I want you see the guy up there that is pumping water. Here is what I want you to do: I want you go up there and tell him when the pail is full of water. See, the guy up on the hill pumping wateris blind. Go tell him when it is full.
See, these gifts that God gives us are given to us to build up one another and to enable us to serve and glorify Christ together. What does that mean? It means that you matter. You matter! You are divinely designed to serve Him. God (key fact number one) has given every believer a spiritual gift.
That key fact is also what I call an antidote to the “swelled head syndrome.” You know, some people in the body of Christ get a swelled head [greatly exaggerated opinion of yourself]. Especially I think they are more prone to it if they have up-front types of gifts, but they are really good at that because God gave them that ability. So, they often begin to develop this attitude: ‘You ought to pay attention to me, because God has really gifted me! I’m pretty great. Don’t you just wish you could be like me?’ No, no, no, no, no!! God has given every believer a spiritual gift and the key word there is the word, “given.” It was given to me, the spiritual gift that God has decided for me to have. I can’t have a swelled head about it. God gave it to me. It is a gift, it’s not something that we earned, it is given to us by God, Himself.
You know, the most common term for spiritual gift, in the New Testament, is the word “charisma,” c-h-a-r-i-s-m-a. Charisma, that is the most common word that is translated in terms of being a spiritual gift. Now, here is what I want you to watch, I want you to see the word for ‘grace’ in the New Testament. The word for grace in the New Testament is “charis,” c-h-a-r-i-s. See, the difference in those words is only two letters at the end. Why is that? Because, the charisma, the spiritual gift that we have, is a gift of grace. We didn’t earn it, it’s not because I’m special or you’re special, God gave it to us. It is a grace gift. That is what the Corinthians clearly missed. Again, they were so ‘whacked out’ over spiritual gifts, they did not understand this. The spiritual gift that we have been given is a gift of grace. God has given every believer this gift of grace.
Paul was trying to reason with them, and he says this in 1 Corinthians 4:7—it is one of my favorite verses of all time—he asks them the question: “What do you have that you did not receive?” I mean they were running around so proud of themselves. They were running around arguing with each other, well, I’m in this cool spiritual group…oh no, I’m in this cool spiritual group…and Paul is saying, time out. What do you have that you did not receive?
And the answer to that is absolutely nothing! The intelligence we have is a gift from God. The abilities we have are a gift from God. Everything is a gift from God, including the spiritual gifts that we have. What do you have that you haven’t received? Nothing! Why are you doing bragging about something? You have nothing to brag about. It is a gift.
Fact number one is, God has given every believer a spiritual gift. That is an antidote to the swelled head syndrome. So, again, we are divinely designed to serve. Key fact number one is God has given every believer a spiritual gift.
Key fact number two we want to look at is You are indispensable…without you the body of Christ is spiritually hampered. Very important. Here in 1 Corinthians chapter 12, notice what it tells us in verse 12. By the way, what he is saying is, he uses an analogy of the human body to be a picture of the spiritual body of Christ. He says in verse 12, “Even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.” (Verse 17) “If the whole (human) body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” (Verse 18) “But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired (It is His sovereign act).” (Verse 21) “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you;” or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” What he is saying here in 1 Corinthians 12 is that we are all part of the body. You are indispensable and without you, the body of Christ is spiritually hampered. Some of us are arms, some of us are legs, some of us are hands, some of us are feet, some of us are eyes, some of us are ears. But here is the thrust: without you, without your gift, the body of Christ is less effective. See, you are indispensable, without you the body of Christ is spiritually hampered.
What does that mean? It means that everybody is somebody. Everybody is somebody. Everybody has a gift; everybody has a role to play when it comes to serving God and others. It means that we are Divinely Designed to Serve.
Now, I want to do something a little bit different in the next few verses. I want you to just take a deep breath and I want you to be thinking this thought before the Lord. Let’s let the Holy Spirit speak to each one of us individually, not a scary thing, but what does the Holy Spirit want me to learn today? I want you to be thinking about that as we look at three different passages of Scripture.
We are Divinely Designed to Serve. The first part of what God did to shape us is the letter “S,” spiritual gifts. Let’s look at these three passages and let the Spirit of God just touch your heart where maybe it needs to be touched.
The first verse is 1 Timothy 4:14, Don’t neglect the spiritual gift that is in you. See, it is possible for us to be unaware; it is possible for us to be unfamiliar with our gift. Is it possible the Holy Spirit is speaking to you today and is saying, Hey don’t neglect the spiritual gift that I have given to you? Maybe you weren’t aware before this morning, but now you are aware. Don’t neglect it.
The second passage, 1 Peter 4:10. “As each one has received a gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the grace of God.” A steward was someone who managed a resource for somebody else. Here we have received a gift, it is God’s gift, and we are to employ it in serving one another. Many of the translations say: we are to use it in serving one another as good stewards of the grace of God. It’s possible, could it be that you are aware of spiritual gifts but you’re not utilizing it, you’re not using it? What is the Spirit of God saying to you about that this morning?
Then, there is a third passage we want to look at, which comes from 2 Timothy 1:6, where it says, “Rekindle the gift of God, which is in you.” The ESV says, “fan it into flame.” You know, when you have a fire and it’s beginning to burn down, the idea is, don’t let it fizzle out. You know, stir up the coals a little bit. Maybe today some of you are here and you know what your spiritual gifts are, but you’ve been letting them fizzle out. You might be thinking, well, you know, I used to use my spiritual gift, but for whatever reason I’m not doing it now. Maybe the Spirit of God says, Hey, rekindle it. Stir up the coals, because God has Divinely Designed you to Serve.
So, here is a key question, how did God shape us to serve? As we said, we are going to look at and build on this acrostic S-H-A-P-E. The first thing about how He divinely designed us to serve relates to spiritual gifts. Now, you may be sitting there thinking, I don’t know a whole lot about spiritual gifts. What are spiritual gifts? What are the differences in spiritual gifts? How can I discover my spiritual gift? Great questions to ask and we are going to address those questions next week so you’ll have to come back, and we’ll look at what are the spiritual gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament, and we’ll give us some insights on how we can discover those spiritual gifts.
But all throughout this series there is a central question I want us to be asking ourselves every single week. Here is that central question: How can I serve and invest in others? We want you to ask yourself that question this week, the second week, the third week, the fourth week, the fifth week. How can I serve and invest in others?
Bow with me as we pray before the Lord. Father, we just thank You so much for Your Word. We pray again that we would be just realigning our minds and even our actions with Your truth. We pray, Father, that not only that, but we would be refreshed by Your grace. How encouraging it is to know that we are Divinely Designed to Serve our Savior. We would pray that we would all be mobilized in a greater way so that Jesus gets honored in a greater way; where ministry gets accomplished for His honor and for His glory and we pray these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
Divinely Designed to Serve
Spiritual Gifts (Part one)
1. What are some of your favorite aspects of God’s divine handiwork in this world? Bruce mentioned majestic mountain scenes, sunsets ablaze with colors, and the intricacies of individual snowflakes. What others might you include? Explain some.
2. The core passage from part 1 of our series on being Divinely Designed to Serve is Ephesians 2:10. Read it out loud. Read it again and this time put your name in the verse (e.g., Bruce is His workmanship…so that he would walk in them). Do you truly believe that? Why do we sometimes struggle believing that concept?
3. Ray Stedman said, “The whole subject of spiritual gifts is the lost treasure of Christianity.” Why is that? What should we do to “recover” that lost treasure?
4. Bruce stated that the truth about each one of us receiving a spiritual gifts(s) alleviates what he called the “I have nothing to offer syndrome.” Why do we sometimes feel like we have little to offer in serving others?
5. Bruce cited several verses that exhort believers about spiritual gifts. As honestly as possible, might the Holy Spirit be using one of the verses below as directed at/or descriptive of you? Elaborate.
Don’t neglect the spiritual gift that is in you (1 Timothy 4:14)
As you’ve received a spiritual gift employ it in serving one another (1 Peter 4:10)
Rekindle the gift of God which is in you (2 Timothy 1:6)
6. Prayerfully be asking yourself this week: How can I serve and invest in others?