We have spent the summer talking about spiritual gifts and about using our gifts for ministry, about how we are called and gifted to serve one another in the body of Christ. Over the summer I have been privileged to learn of different ways some of our members are serving quietly in the church and in the community. There is one group of people in our midst that struggles with this whole matter of using our spiritual gifts, and that group is our senior saints who no longer can do all the things they used to do. I want to conclude our spiritual gifts series with two sermons with some wisdom and encouragement from God’s Word for those who might think they are too old to serve usefully anymore. America is getting older. 5,500 baby boomers turn 65 every day. Over 14% of America is over 65. But America seems to be allergic to getting older, many fight it or deny it for as long as possible. We are very much a youth driven culture that views getting older as a bad deal. We live in a culture that exalts youthful energy and looks, that exalts rationality, autonomy and productivity. When our minds and bodies start to fail us we assume we are of little value and not needed anymore. What’s the point of life for a person who is losing their mind, their independence and their ability to do useful things?
Since Pentecost Sunday we have been talking about God’s gift of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. We started with ten truths about spiritual gifts and then six things they are not and shouldn’t be confused with. Then we considered nine of the speaking gifts, nine of the serving gifts and four of the sign gifts. Then we talked about how to focus the gifts according to how God has shaped us in life, through our heart or desires, abilities, personalities and experiences. Now what?
Introduction. We ended last week with me urging you to take the Spiritual Gift Inventory we put in your box and set on the table and sent you the link for on the Internet. I urge you to do the inventory. But once you have some clue about what gifts the Spirit has given you in the body of Christ, then what? We can know what our gift is but not be sure what to do with it or where to use it. This morning I want to give us a tool to help us discern how and where to use our gifts. The tool is on the back of your bulletin and it’s called SHAPE. It’s not original with me but has been around for years. What is your shape for service and being used to make a difference? To illustrate how it works I want to use the life.
Finally. Article 37 begins with the word finally. After a year and a half and 48 sermons we are finally at the end of the Belgic Confession and ready to deal with the last article that deals with final things, the end of all things. The fancy name for this is Eschatology, which is simply the study of last things. Finally when it is all said and done, it comes down to this. Everything we have learned about God and Scripture, about the fall and about Christ and our redemption, about the church and the sacraments, all of it is preparation for this final day. Everything points to the final return of Christ and the final fulfillment of all Scripture and of all history. In the end Jesus will have the last word. The disastrous work of the first Adam will finally be undone by the return of the second Adam. The last judgment is hard for us to talk about because of its implications for all of us, partly because of some measure of guilt and shame we feel about our sinful words and actions, and partly because hell is a very scary prospect and unpleasant topic. But there is something else about this article that strikes deeper into our hearts. When you read it, it doesn’t just read like academic doctrine. This isn’t just spouting truth out of the Bible. As you read you begin to feel there is something personal, something real about this. This is being written by someone living in the days of suffering and persecution, in the days of martyrdom. This sounds more like what a Christian in Iraq or Afghanistan might write than what a Christian in America would write. Article 37: “They will then receive the fruits of their labor and of the trouble they have suffered; their innocence will be openly recognized by all; and they will see the terrible vengeance that God will bring on the evil ones who tyrannized, oppressed, and tormented them in this world.” “…and their cause-- at present condemned as heretical and evil by many judges and civil officers-- will be acknowledged as the ‘cause of the Son of God.’” This is real. There is conviction here and courage, faith and hope.
Introduction. Last week when I preached on the nine serving gifts of the Spirit, I mentioned how I couldn’t do what I do as a pastor without the helping/serving gifts of my wife. I want to add that applies also to Kara Humphreys and Susan Berendsen. They are excellent church secretaries with many gifts of serving and helping and administration and some creativity thrown in. I want to publically acknowledge my debt of gratitude and my thanks to God for their faithful service to our church. We have talked about nine of the speaking gifts and nine of the serving gifts and this morning we come to the final group of spiritual gifts, the four sign gifts or extraordinary gifts, and therefore those controversial gifts. [Again this week, I have pulled from several resources for the definitions, characteristics and cautions I’m about to share so there is nothing completely original here (C. Peter Wagner, Your Spiritual Gifts; Erik Rees, SHAPE; Paul Ford, Unleash Your Church; David Hocking, Spiritual Gifts; Al Vander Griend, Discover Your Gifts).]
We live in trying and challenging times politically. We live in times of terrorism and anarchy; in times of abuses of power and authority; in times of undisciplined attacks on our constitution and freedoms. We are watching from the sidelines as our political and judicial systems systematically destroy Biblical morality. With each passing generation it’s getting harder and harder to discern our role as Christian citizens in a country that was once thought by many to be a Christian nation. What does the separation of church and state really mean? What kind of influence is the church in general and Christians in particular to have on our government? Let’s begin by addressing a question many Christian ask. Is America a Christian Nation?