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THE GREATEST SPIRITUAL GIFT OF ALL

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

26 JANUARY 1992

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Corinthians 12:1-11, 28-31
             13:1-3
Jude 2

Preparation Verse: (Jude 2)

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.

Last week we talked about the way we can discern whether or not something is of God, or whether someone is being led by the Holy Spirit.

Our whole approach was based on a common sense look at the Scriptural behavior of one who is led by the Spirit, and it all came down to love.

If Godly love is not the basis of our lives, then we are not being led by the Holy Spirit.

This is something that is very easy for any of us to discern, since true love cannot be faked for any long period of time.

If we are alert, the signs of false love may be evident to us almost immediately.

Godly love is consistent, regardless of the circumstances.

Turn with me to 1 Corinthians 12:1f, and let's look at some other aspects of being led by the Spirit; but as we go through these passages, keep in mind that love is the central focus.

1. Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.

2. You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led.

Now we may not think of ourselves as having been pagans, but I submit to you that if we honestly look at ourselves by the degree that we love God, we still have some pagan traits.

We often place our own will and pride before God; and then there are those lusts of the eye and the flesh that we try to keep secret.

These, too, are idols.

But even though we still drag around these idols from time to time, Paul sets up a test to see if we really have the love of God as our real desire and if the Spirit is indeed leading us.

3. Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, "Jesus is accursed"; and no one can say, "Jesus is Lord," except by the Holy Spirit.

When we get angry and frustrated, do we still use the Lord's name in vain, or even as an expletive?

Or perhaps we have trained ourselves to use a substitute word or phrase in place of the Lord's name, instead of just expressing what we really feel.

I truly believe that most of us have a much better command of the English language than we give others the impression of having.

If we still misuse the Lord's name, it is not in the love of God, nor are we being led by His Spirit.

And I suppose that almost anyone could say, "Jesus is Lord," and not really mean it, but just say it to prove a point.

I also believe that there are many people who call themselves, Christian, who say, "Jesus is Lord," as a way of hiding their lustful and way of life, and their lack of unconditional love.

But we can never say it, and mean it, unless we are in the Spirit; for it is our love that says it, and then lives it.

4. Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord.

6. And there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.

7. But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

And remember what is the greatest of all the manifestations.

It is love!

Love will never act unbecomingly, nor will it be arrogant and brag.

Love does not seek its own.

Love seeks to serve others.

One church is not given more of the spiritual gifts than another, for the same God gives equally to all who believe.

And as we are told, these true gifts will never offend, but will be for the common good.

This, too, is common sense that is based on love.

8. For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit;

Isn't this what we are talking about?

I believe that most of us can discern whether or not something is of God.

This is a gift of the Spirit.

Accept this gift and use it.

9. to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit.

Donít some of us seem to have more faith than others?

But, do we use that gift of faith in love to encourage others?

Do we use our faith to help them get through the difficult times in their lives?

We should.

We may not have the power to heal a broken arm, but we can do something greater.

With the help and love of the Spirit, we can heal a broken heart.

And when we do this, we can see the results.

10. and to another the effecting of miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues.

11. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.

If we're not too embarrassed to admit it, most of us have seen or experienced some miracles, even if they were small ones.

And many of us have propounded the word of God, so as to help others Ė in other words, we have prophesied.

As we said before, we can usually tell when these things are from God, and when they are not.

And yes, there are other tongues; but we don't seem to be doing such a good job trying to converse with those who speak a tongue other than English, and we have trouble interpreting what they are saying.

Sometimes we even fail to properly interpret English.

But with the help of the Spirit we can learn to understand, appreciate, and help each other in true Godly love.

There is but one God, and we should learn to love each other as He equally loves us.

And if we truly love God, our love doesn't stop here, for our love will extend to the whole of creation, and we will do everything in our power to protect it from harm and free it from it's present corruption.

This, too, is good common sense.

Now, let's skip forward to verse 28, and see how Paul begins to test the spirits by using common sense.

28. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.

All of this is true; for we see them all in the pages of our Bibles, and we see some of them in all of our churches.

But at the same time, we are to use the gifts of discernment and knowledge to answer the following questions:

29. All are not apostles, are they?

The only answer we can honestly give is, "No!"

All are not prophets, are they?

I honestly wish that we were, but again the answer is, "No!"

All are not teachers, are they?

Again we must say, "No!"

All are not workers of miracles, are they?

We must say, "No!" again.

30. All do not have the gifts of healings, do they?

We must admit that we don't.

All do not speak with tongues, do they?

Some might like to say that we all should, but we can discern that this, too, must be answered in the negative.

All do not interpret, do they?

I believe we can do a pretty good job of interpreting the truth from the lie, and that which is faked from that which is from the heart; but here, again, we must answer, "No!"

Now, remember that the greatest gift is love.

31. But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way.

And what is this still more excellent way?

Note the beginning of Chapter 13:

1. If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

So why not seek this greatest gift, and let the others fall where they may?

For if we really and truly have this greatest of all gifts, the gift of love, and we share it with others, I believe these other gifts will also begin to manifest themselves.

We can always find excuses why this ideal way of living in the Spirit won't work.

And if that's our thinking process, it won't work for us.

But true love is a gift of God, and no matter how negative we ourselves may be, it is nevertheless true, and it will work to change the lives of those who will receive it.

This is where the church has made its greatest mistake: we have substituted form and ritual for the true substance of love.

We have filled the lives of those who do come to church with so much busy work and meetings, that there is little room remaining to be filled with the Spirit.

And we are so busy doing the things of the church that we have little time to pour out the infilling of love the Holy Spirit has given us.

Do you really want to do the will of God?

Then before anything else, share the greatest Spiritual gift of all.

Share the gift of love with others.

Then we will be the church that God really wants us to be.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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