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SPIRITUAL GIFTS PT IV: encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, and hospitality

    • Pastor Mark Driscoll
    • Romans 12:6-8, 13
    • August 27, 2006

Father God, we begin, as always, by acknowledging that there is one God, that you are that God, that you are a good God and that you have loved us, father, son and spirit. And so, as we study, it is our prayer that the person and work of Jesus would be the subject of that we focus on. That he would be the object of our affection. That he would be the source of our devotion. For that to happen, we invite the Holy Spirit to teach us, to lead us, to guide us, to gift us, to empower us, so that we might be a people who are increasingly speak and serve like Jesus, and so we pray this in his good name, amen.

Well, as we get into it, let me start by explaining Jesus to you. Everything connects to Jesus and we begin with Jesus and will connect everything back to him. Jesus is God. Jesus is the God who made the world and made us and loves us and though we have sinned against him, Jesus has come on a rescue mission to save us from ourselves. And our eternal God, Jesus Christ, entered into human history. He was conceived by the power of God, the Holy Spirit, he lived his life empowered and enabled to do ministry by the Holy Spirit, and therefore he taught and he administrated and healed and encouraged and did all kinds of ministry by the enabling of the Holy Spirit. He lived a life empowered by the Holy Spirit to the degree that he never did sin. He lived the life that we were supposed to live – but because we’re sinners – don’t live. And then something extraordinary happened that Jesus went to the cross and error, he substituted himself in our place for our sins, and he died in my place for my sense, paying my penalty for my wrongdoing. Three days later, Jesus rose from death, conquering my enemies of sin and death, and then Jesus ascended back into Heaven and Ephesians 4:8 says that when we did that, he gave gifts to man. He sent gifts two men and women on the earth and he did get through the Holy Spirit, who was then poured out and to date, the Holy Spirit is at work on the earth, making people Christians; giving us hearts that love Jesus. Giving us minds that believe in Jesus, and subsequently we have this wonderful ability – for those of us who are or will become Christians – to do ministry. That means that everyone who is a Christian is in full time ministry.

Now some of you are called pastor and you’re not being paid for it, but your whole life is ministry and God gives you, through the course of your life, opportunities to help and serve other people. And so, what that means is that each Christian has at least one spiritual gift, when ministry skill, one supernatural capacity to do the ministry of Jesus on the earth. So some of you are teachers, some of you are encouragers; some of you are those who exhort, as when we will deal with today. Some of you have the gift of mercy and we all work together as the church, following the ministry of Jesus, together doing the ministry of Jesus by the enablement of the Holy Spirit, just like Jesus did and that’s exactly what the New Testament when it refers to the church as the body of Christ. That we are the hands and feet of Jesus, speaking and serving on behalf of Jesus here in Seattle today, so that more people would meet Jesus and that’s our entire hope and objective.

And so, when it speaks of the various gifts that were given to men and women and how the Holy Spirit has brought those gifts, the New Testament lists, as I said, in four places – Ephesians 4, 1 Peter 4, 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 – different lists of gifts. To date, we’ll look at five gifts in Romans, Chapter 12. So, if you’ve got a Bible, you can follow along. I’ll list them and then will speak about them in some great detail. Romans 12:1. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers,” speaking to Christians, “in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.” So in one sense, we gather together and we sing songs as a church – that is worship – but also, as we scatter and live our life and sit in our a cubicle, or our dorm, raise our kids, love our friends, mow our grass, work our job, pay our bills, clean our dishes, brush our teeth. That too is all worship. If it’s done under the Lord, if it’s done in relationship and out of love and gratitude to Jesus, then all of life is in one very real sense, an act of worship and ongoing act of ministry.

He says then, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but, rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” He says walk away from a life of sin that is separated from Jesus and walk toward a life of holiness that is with Jesus and for this to occur, you’ll need to read your Bible a lot and ask the Holy Spirit to teach you so that you have a mind that can distinguish between what God wants you to do and what God doesn’t want you to do.

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” So he says to do ministry and live our life, we must first soberly assess who we are. Where am I strong? Where am I weak? Where do I have spiritual giftedness and where do I not? Additionally, there are different measures of gifting. He calls it measures of faith. That means that some of you will lead, if you have the gift of leadership, dozens or hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands or millions of people. Some of you will teach, one-on-one or in groups or in large groups or in very large groups. There are different levels of spiritual gifts, according to the measure of faith that God has given us and rather than being arrogant, thinking too highly of ourselves – and rather than being pessimistic and thinking too lowly of ourselves – is an issue of saying, “Well, who has God made me two be? What has God made me to do?” and then going ahead and doing that well and enjoying it.

And he goes on to say then, “Just as each of us has one body with many members,” so we get our concept of church membership being plugged into the church, vitally active, just like the physical body has hands and feet and ears and such, so does the church. Each one of us has a part to play – has a unique contribution to make. He says, “Just as each one of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to the others.” That we need each other. We work together. We’re a family. We’re a community. “We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.” And I would stress that if the issue of differentiation of gifts. Some will say that we should all speak in tongues. You know, we have different gifts. Some of us have one kind of gift, some of us have another. The diversity is in fact, a good thing.

So then he says, “If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith.” We’ll deal with the gift of prophecy here in a few weeks. It is spoken of most extensively in 1 Corinthians 14. That’s a subject that is highly debated and surrounded in much controversy and so we’ll reserve the preponderance of a whole sermon for that. He goes on to say then, “If it is serving,” we dealt with that a few weeks ago, “let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;” we dealt with that additionally a previous week. “if it is encourage, letting – if it is encouraging, rather – let him encourage;” so we’ll deal with the gift of encouragement tonight, right? The nicest people in the world have the gift of encouragement and I don’t, as some of you maybe knew. I don’t, unless it is, “Knock it off before I punch you in the neck,” which I don’t think is the gift of encouragement, it’s more like the gift of I don’t know, violence or something. So, some of you have this gift and we’ll talk about it momentarily. “[I]f it is contributing,” or giving “to the needs of others, let him give generously;” we’ll deal with the gift of giving, “if it is leadership, let him govern diligently;” so we’ll deal with the gift of leadership, “if it is showing mercy,” another gift I don’t have, “let him do it cheerfully.” People who are nice and happy. Hm. Extraordinary people. How explain some that have met, though I can’t speak from experience.

Verse 9, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need.” And this will be our fifth, “Practice hospitality.” We’ll deal, then, with hospitality. So out of that list, there are five gifts we have not yet dealt with. Prophecy, we will hold off for a couple weeks before we discuss, and so we’ll deal with encouragement, first gift, giving, leadership, mercy, hospitality.

First one is the gift of the encouragement. It’s in Romans Chapter 12, Verse 8, the gift of encouragement. Everybody loves the person with the gift of encouragement. They’re super nice and they’re usually positive and they love you and they’re there for you and they wanna support you. They’re enthusiastic. They are much help. The gift of encouragement, also called the gift of exhortation, involves motivating, encouraging, consoling others so that they mature in their walk with Christ. Christians with this gift have an unusual sensitivity for, and attracted to people who are struggling or discouraged. You, if you have this gift, you may not know that when people are depressed, bummed out and their life stinks, most of us are not attracted to them. We run from them, because they bum us out, amen? Right, now when the person with the gift of encouragement sees somebody who’s bummed out, depressed and has a shipwreck life, they’re attracted to them. They think, “You know what? They’re bummed out. I can encourage them and make them happy because I’m a positive person.

So, the person with the gift of encouragement, though – they – they’re attracted to people who are wayward, right? Walked away from the Lord, haven’t been to church for a while. Haven’t been, you know, reading their Bible for a while. They meet with them, “Hey, let me encourage you. What’s going on? Why did you get so discouraged? Why did you walk away?” People that are struggling, “Hey, you know, don’t lose hope.” And oftentimes this gift is accompanied with the gift of faith. They believe God’s gonna do a great thing and they want to encourage you to stick with God. As a result, people tend to pursue them for healing words, gracious truth, compassionate counsel. These people, too, also tend to be very, very patient. Yet another thing I do not understand.

I dealt with one – there’s this one older pastor I know and he introduced me to this guy. He said, “It’s so great he’s not doing drugs anymore. I’ve been meeting with him, trying to get him to stop doing drugs.” I said, “How long did you meet with him?” He said, “Eighteen years.” I was like, “Dog years?” “No, real years.” Eighteen years. You know, you think about that – that’s 50 weeks a year. That’s 50 hours a year. If it’s a one hour meeting, that’s 900 hours. This is what I’m thinking. Gift of administration. I’m thinking, “That’s 900 hours.” But he encouraged this guy for 18 years and then the guy stopped doing drugs, and now he’s walking with the Lord, he’s actually guiding ministries. So, you say, “Well, praise God! You have the gift of encouragement.” Praise God, you can walk with somebody. You can encourage them indefinitely and remain hopeful.

How about Jesus? Did Jesus have the gift of encouragement? He did. He told us to love our enemies, and that’s amazing. It’s easy to love your friends. Sometimes it’s a little hard to love your family. It’s awkward loving strangers. It’s really difficult to love your enemies and Jesus said, “You know what, encourage them too.” What? Yeah, encourage them too. And Jesus exhorted people throughout his life to go and sin no more. Leave your life of sin. He encouraged them. He motivated them. The inspired them. He commanded them. Biblically, the guy – who’s the guy you think of who is most closely associated with the gift of encouragement in the New Testament? Barnabas. Means son of encouragement, right? Acts 4, Barney, we’ll call him Barney, right; Barney was most huggable in high school. He was the encourager, right? He’d come alongside, “Ooh, you’re struggling? Let me encourage you.” So here’s who he encouraged and Barnabas’ ministry of encouragement means that many with this gift of encouragement, like Barnabas, they’re not out front, highly prominent, they’re behind the scenes, motivating, encouraging, loving, compelling people toward Jesus. He did this with Paul and John Mark, two great leaders in the New Testament, Barnabas was their encourager. He was the cut man in their corner, always patching them back together, loving them, motivating them. You know, encouraging them to continue with Jesus.

Well, how about you? Do you have this gift? Are you an encourager? Right, let’s say you are, for example, a woman who likes to write notes and letters and cards. All the time, maybe you’re dating or married to this woman. Right, “I love you. You’re awesome. You’re gonna have a great day. I know it’s gonna go well. You’re gonna do a great job.” You may have the gift of encouragement, ladies. If you put smile faces all over those notes, cards and letters, you definitely have the gift of encouragement. And if you turn all of the dots on you’re on ‘i’s into a little hearts, you definitely, most certainly, have the gift of encouragement.

Do you have this gift? Do people come to you when they are bummed out? “I’m bummed out. I don’t wanna be a Christian anymore.” You know, “My life fell apart. I’m sick. My relationship is broken. Here, you need to cheer me up. Pick me up, right?” Okay, cool. I have the gift of encouragement. I do that. Maybe that’s why people come to you when it’s just a hard time because they want you to encourage them.

How about this? Can you patiently endure with people? How many of you are not patient with people? Right, if you have the gift of encouragement, you tend to be long suffering and patient, really patient, with people. And also when someone comes to you and says, “I’m really struggling. I’m bummed out. I’m depressed.” Do you say, “Good luck?” or do you meet with them? Do you actually say, “Well, let’s get together. I’m gonna call you. I’m gonna e-mail you. I’m gonna send you letters with smiley faces. I’m gonna give you verses. I’m gonna be in your corner. I’m gonna be your biggest fan. I’m gonna be your cheerleader. I’m going to encourage you to keep going with Jesus and not give up.”

Second gift we’ll look at and Romans 12:8 is the gift of giving. The gift of giving – and we know this is a gift because people tend not to just give their money away, right? This takes a miracle for people to say, “I have extra money. I need to give that away.” And this is what the people with the gift of giving do. They view themselves as stewards. This is the mindset of someone with a spiritual gift of giving. They realize that all of their money, all of their possessions, all of their insight, wisdom, talent, time, treasure, whatever they got – that it belongs to Jesus – and that Jesus has given it to them and they are to steward it. That they are to distribute it. So when they give money, or they give their possessions or they give away such things, they don’t feel bad. They say, “It wasn’t mine in the first place. Jesus gave it to me to share he. To distribute. To give and so I get delight in giving and being the steward who gives away what Jesus has entrusted to my care.” That’s how these people view themselves.

Furthermore, these people are not always rich. Sometimes you think the rich guy is the one with the gift of giving. Not always. Not always. It doesn’t matter if you’re poor or rich, you could still have the gift of giving. If you’re poor, you give what you can and beyond and you pray for needs that are not yet met and you will even share those needs with others, hoping that they help to give, so that certain needs are met because giving is so important to you. There are rich and for people with the gift of giving. And let me say this. I grew up in a home where my mom was a Christian. She was a catholic Christian who loved Jesus and my mom had the gift of giving. Right, we grew up pretty poor. My dad was a union drywaller. Five kids. I grew up in Sea-Tac and we had some really mean, hard times. My mom stayed home to take care of us five kids while my dad home drywall and we didn’t have it on. Money was tight, things were tight, and what happened was, my mom would just give. I mean, she would just give to other kids. We were always feeding the other kids because their kids weren’t taking care of them. Kids would come over and not have shoes. My mom would buy them shares. Right, kids would come over in the winter and they wouldn’t have coats. My mom would give them a coat. Right, that’s the gift of giving. We didn’t have much but my mom was able to squeeze out lots of gifts, okay?

And you who have the gift of giving, your gift-givers. Some of you may be married to or dating this person. You’re like, “Why do they keep buying me stuff?” Probably the gift of giving. The demonstrate their love. They show their love. They communicate their loved through giving, through giving gifts and giving money and being generous people. And when they think of true religion, they hear words like James speaks, which is, if you really are religious, you’ll feed the hungry and you’ll clothe the naked and you’ll house the homeless and that’s real love. That’s not just patting people on the back, saying, “Jesus loves you,” it’s giving them something and saying, “Here, you could see it for yourself. Jesus does love you and he just gave you this gift through me. Be that rent money for the single mom or food for the hungry kid or housing for the AIDS orphan in Africa. That’s the gift of giving. It’s that spirit of generosity, where you just like to give. It makes you happy to give. It fills you with joy to give.

That being said, there are also rich people who have this gift. And some of the richest people I know of her some of the most generous people I have ever met in the vast majority that I know I didn’t begin rich, they began very poor but Jesus says, “If I can trust you with a little, I’ll give you more.” He says, “If your faithful with a little, I’ll entrust you with additional.” And the context that Jesus speaks about is money, meaning Jesus gives you a little something, your generous, you’re good with it, you’re a good steward. He may interest you with more and more and more, because Jesus is looking for faithful people that if he gives the money to, who’s not gonna just blow it but that person will steward it and share it and help people and be generous. Some of the richest people I know are some of the most generous people I know and they have the gift of giving. They give cheerfully, sacrificially, regularly, just like 2 Corinthians 9 and 9 says.

Now, at this point, some of you are like, “Oh, here’s the money pitch. I hate it when I go to the big church and I get the money pitch.” It’s not the big money pitch but if I spoke of money as much as Jesus did, one sermon a month would be dedicated exclusively to money. Jesus spoke of money, if you forget the Gospels; roughly 25 percent of his words are about money. He talks about money all the time. Why? And he says the reason is that where your treasure is, that’s where your heart is. Meaning if you wanna know what you really care about, follow how you spend your money. That’ll show you what you really care about. You say, you know, “I love Jesus.” Well, if pizza gets more money than Jesus, you really love pizza, right? You know, if Xbox gets more money than Jesus, you really love Xbox. And if you follow the money, that’s how you see the heart, right? And this is true, right? The guy who says, “I love my family,” and doesn’t feed them, he doesn’t love them, doesn’t love them. Love is what you do. Love is what you give. Love shows up in the generosity that you provide.

Now this being said, too. How about other people – well, Jesus also. I’ll tell you a few other things about Jesus’ gift of giving. Then the Jesus fed thousands. He was generous, even though he was a homeless poor guy and Jesus gave us his life. This is Jesus’ greatest gift. It’s the greatest gift that’s ever been given. All right, Jesus says, “There is no greater gift than this. Someone lay down their life for their friends.” The greatest gift you can give is your life and see; this is the love of Jesus. Jesus is such a generous giver, not a taker, that he went to the cross, gave me his life for my sin. That he gave me salvation. That he gave me forgiveness. That he gave me grace. That he gave me eternal life. That Jesus Christ gave me God. I mean that is a gift. You know, if you had to summarize the basis of Christian theology, it is this concept of grace, which means God gives us salvation, forgiveness, redemption, relationship, and he gives it to us through the person and the work of Jesus, who died in our place for our sins and gave us his life as the gift that absolutely, absolutely is the greatest gift that has ever been given.

Other people in the Bible have this as well. One is a poor woman who is a widow, who has very little and she gives, out of her pittance, and Jesus says that she is an extraordinary woman because this widow has given out of her lack, not out of her abundance. The entire church in Macedonia, in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is said to be a very generous church that gives cheerfully, sacrificially and regularly and they are very generous was their money toward ministry he ended purpose says that God has intended for Paul. Other people in the bible, Tabitha in Acts 9, Barnabas in Acts 4 demonstrate this gift as well.

Do you have this gift? Do you have this gift? All I ask you some questions. Do you give to the church cheerfully, regularly, sacrificially, right? You’ll say, “No but once every presidential election, I think about it.” Will you probably don’t have the gift of giving and we love you but you’re no help at all. So, get it together. Those with the gift of giving, they give regularly. He they give cheerfully. They give sacrificially. You say, “Do I have to tithe?” We actually don’t teach the tithe. The tithe is not ten percent. If you add up all the feasts and festivals and tithes in the Old Testament, it’s somewhere between 25 and 27 percent was the total tithe and we don’t teach that. We teach that you give generously, regularly, sacrificially, cheerfully. 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 yet again and whatever that is for you, we say then praise be to God. For some, it’s a certain percentage that’s high or low and we just say if you’re a Christian, give as God leads and give as the Bible mandates. If you’re not a Christian or you’re a visitor, don’t give. We don’t want your money.

Second question, maybe you’ve got this gift. Do people often say, “You’re a generous person”? You’re just generous. You find out somebody’s having a hard time, you just send them money. You find out somebody’s low on groceries, single mom, you bring groceries. Somebody says, “My car broke down,” you say, “Well you could borrow mine.” You’re just generous. Right, I know people that have bought vacation properties just so their friends can use them. That’s generous. I mean, that’s giving. Not a lot of people buy a house for other people but that’s the gift of giving. And you love that. You love to see people blessed and taken care of and that’s something that delights you.

And do you look for opportunities to help other people and to give money? Those are the gift of giving. When I meet them at this church, they always ask, “So what crazy thing are you cooking up now?” I say, “Why?” They say, “What do you need? I wanna kick in some money. I wanna help.” Cool. They’re asking. They’re looking. There are people with the gift of giving who are just looking for ministries and people that they can get behind and help and their gifts help empower everything else in the ministry because they pay for a lot of the real estate and staffing and technology that allows other people to use their gifts.

The third gift is one I actually do have and that’s the gift of leadership. It’s in Romans 12:8. This is someone who has a clear, compelling vision that God has given them. Something needs to be done things need to be changed. People need to be reached. Lives need to be affected, and then they can articulate that can a winsome way, so that other people want to follow that vision and to be a leader means that there are people behind you. A great old preacher from LA who’s a great guy, he passed away, E.V. Hill, he said, “Any guy who thinks he’s a leader that doesn’t have people following him is just a dude out for a walk.” Right, which is a great line. I love that line. I’ve had 20-year-old guys walk in, “I’m a leader.” “Where’s your peeps?” “I don’t have any.” “You’re not a leader. You’re just another white guy.” You’re not a leader, right? You’re not a leader. Leaders have people. Right people follow leaders. That is, by definition, what it means to be a leader.

That leadership at this church is in large part about building what I like to call the air war. You say, “I’m a pacifist.” This is an illustration, an analogy. We don’t really have bombs and an Air Force. I’m speaking metaphorically. When I speak of the air war, what I’m speaking of is leaders live globally. They live at the 30,000 foot level. We’re always looking for new real estate, new leaders, new opportunities, new services, new churches, new ministries, new people groups, new developments, new ways to expand the influence and the love of Jesus do the whole city, right? Before I was a Christian, I was a student body president and stuff in high school, and then when I met Jesus, I got a spiritual gift of leadership.

If you have this gift, you like being in the point position. You like making decisions. You like taking risks. You like taking responsibility.

How about Jesus? Was he a decent leader? Best leader in the history of the world. Today billions of people say, “I’m a Christian. Jesus is my God. I follow him.” Jesus is the leader of leaders. The greatest leader who has ever lived. How about in the Bible? Well, in the Bible, there are enumerable leaders, right? Start in the Old Testament: Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David, Daniel, Josiah. New Testament: Peter, Paul, James, lots of leaders. The Bible is filled with leaders who have a clear sense of calling from God. A clear sense of purpose. They articulate that. Other people who are also filled with the Holy Spirit say, you know what? That’s right, we need to do that. I trust this person. Let’s jump onboard. Let’s get behind. This is what God wants. How can I help out?

Do you have this gift? Other people have confidence in your ability to lead. Right, with you in leadership, they just sleep better at night, saying, Yeah, we’re taking risks and things are growing but, you know, so-and-so’s leading and we’re gonna be okay. I mean, I trust him. They walk with the Lord and they got a good plan and they got good character and this is gonna be okay.

Do you like being in the final voice in giving direction? Meaning if there’s a committee or a team or a group, everybody’ll talk about it but they’ll want your buy-in before they’ll sign off and go do it because you’re really the one who holds the influence. And thirdly, when a difficult situation arises, are you the one that rises to the top and leads it? People just look to you. “We’re stuck. What do you want us to do?” Oh, you’re the leader. That’s the way it is.

additionally, you need to prayerfully consider which aspect of the church do I want to specialize in? Do I want to work with little kids? High school students? Single people? Married people? Do I wanna work in the music? Do I wanna work in the technology? Where do I wanna plug in if I’m a leader? If you’re a leader, I you’ve gotta find your lane to drive then, as it were, we’re a multi-lane highway and their specialists in every lane in you’re gonna be in one layer, leading in that lane. And so we don’t have free-floating generalists. People come to me and say, “I feel like I have the gift of leadership.” And I say, “Well, what do you care about? What do you wanna lead?” “I don’t know.” “Well, you gotta figure that out.” We don’t have leaders in general. We have leaders that are specialized and that’s how we have to do things as a big church.

The fourth one is the gift of mercy. The person with the gift of mercy is generally the one who is exceedingly compassionate and has a profound heart for hurting and suffering people. They feel and express unusual compassion and sympathy for those in difficult a crisis situations and provide them with the necessary help to support them through tough times. They can walk in the shoes of another person. They can feel their pain, carry their burdens and they’d love to make a difference in the lives of hurting people.

Now for me, this gift has been very confusing because I have a strong sense of justice, and when I think mercy, I’m thinking, “Oh those are the weak, nice people that let other people off the hook, right? That’s what I think, at least until I prayed about it this week and came to a different conclusion, which I will share with you. It is easy to have mercy for victims. If you’re an image bearer of God, you automatically have mercy for victims, right? Somebody comes in, “I was raped.” I literally – somebody tells me that – I cry. Somebody comes in, says, “I was molested,” I cry. I have mercy. Met with a dear friend this last week. His wife’s been fighting cancer for four years, goes in for emergency surgery, again, on Wednesday. Okay, mercy is very easy to give to the abuse victim, the rape victim, the person whose spouse cheated on them and ran away. The person who’s dad beat them. The person whose spouse has cancer, boy, it is really easy to have mercy.

But what about the perpetrator of the evil? The person who comes in and says, “I molested my kids.” “I raped this woman.” “I beat my own children.” “I committed adultery.” Mercy for them? Those with the gift of mercy not only have compassion on the victim, they have compassion on the perpetrator of the evil. How many of you, this automatically bugs you, because like me, you have a strong sense of justice?

Those with the gift of mercy, they understand the severe hard edge of mercy. As I wrongly thought, it is not just people who are weak. It is not people who do not believe that we are totally depraved sinners. It is not people who do not think that the injustice and evil that has been done is a minor thing to the victim. It is rather those who are deeply in tune with their own depravity. Those who know that they are no better than anyone else. Those who know that God has given mercy to them through the cross of Jesus and they know that apart from the cross, mercy cannot exist and it only can then be injustice that allows people to sense forgiveness when the sin has not been paid for. That is the strong gift of mercy. These people are not weak, they are strong. They are not cowards, they are warriors. They are people who do not dismiss sin but they understand that it has been atoned for, appreciated by the cross of Jesus, who substituted himself in the place of the evildoer. And so it is at the cross that justice and mercy kiss.

Those with the gift of mercy understand the Gospel very well. They understand the cross very well. They understand Jesus very well. Well did Jesus have this gift? We wanna tie everything back to Jesus. He did. The Bible says that he looked at individuals, groups and whole cities and that he had compassion on them. That Jesus was a man who spoke repeatedly of mercy and said things like, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” And it is Jesus Christ in the shortest verse of the Bible, we are told, that he wept. That Jesus was a man, Isaiah prophesied, would be familiar with sorrows. A man of suffering. Right, that Jesus was a man of deep, profound, transforming mercy.

Do other people in the Bible have this gift? Absolutely they do. The subject of the great Samaritan is perhaps the greatest story ever told on what mercy looks like, practically. There’s a woman mentioned at the end of the book of Romans. Her name is Dorcas and it says she was always doing good and feeding the poor. You’d have to be a nice person with that name, right? People would definitely make fun of you and beat you up. As an aside, since it’s a little heavy, I’ll tell you another joke. My daughter, who is nine, is my oldest daughter. She’s got an administrative gift, so when my wife was pregnant with their second daughter, who is now two years of age, my daughter, who is older, kept asking, “What will we name my sissy?” and I, thinking I was funny, took her to Romans 16. I said, “We will name her Dorcas because that is a godly woman who was always doing good and feeding the poor.” And I kept a straight face for a couple months on this little gag and my nine-year-old daughter was like, “Do you really wanna call her Dorcas?” “Yes. We’re a Bible-believing family and she is in the Bible. We’re going to be biblical, sweetheart. We will name her Dorcas. So, my daughter, in an effort to try and get around this problem with her dad, who was playing a joke, came up at one point and said, “Well what will her middle name be?” I said, “Why? “She said, “Maybe I’ll just call her that instead.” My daughter’s trying to be very sweet.

How about you? Are you drawn to needy people, hurting people, sick people, disabled people? The people that nobody else is attracted to, you’re attracted to them. Those people that nobody else wants to hang out with, you actually want to hang out with them. They’re hurting but they don’t depress you. You, you love them well. Mercy. Can you meet with the perpetrator of evil? When you meet a rapist, a child molester, a thief, a liar, a crook, an adulterer, is your first instinct, they need mercy? You probably have the gift of mercy if that’s where you go. If verses like Romans, which says it is the kindness of God which leads to human repentance ring in your years, saying, you know what, they’ll change if we’re nice to them – you may have the gift of mercy.

Do you think of ways to minister to people who are suffering and do you have deep compassion for people with emotional, physical, personal problems? You may be one of those people with the painfully wonderful gift of severe mercy. We could use you to meet with people and encourage them. We could encourage you to run grace groups for those who are recovering and addicted and abused and to be the person of mercy. You know what, too? If you’re good at it, we’ll send you out on hospital visits to go be with the sick and the hurting and the dying and if you have the gift of mercy, you bring the love of Jesus to those who are in affliction and you can meet with those who have done tremendous evil and perhaps see some of them become Christians, even like this man, Paul, who was a murderer that told us that there was a gift of mercy because he himself experienced the mercy of Jesus.

Fifth gift, gift of hospitality. Oh, the gift of hospitality. Don’t you love people with the gift of hospitality? My wife has the gift of hospitality. Last night, I ate blackberry cobbler. This morning, she got up and make me ham and eggs. I love pork products. It puts me in the mood to talk about Jesus and this afternoon, she made French toast with cinnamon bread. It has cinnamon in the middle. It’s the most brilliant thing I’ve ever seen and my wife has the gift of hospitality. Some of you have it – now if you’re a single guy who lives with camping furniture and ease with a spork, food cooked by a high school kid a uniform, you do not have the gift of hospitality, and I would encourage you to marry a woman who does. That would be my recommendation to use single men. That is in fact what I have done.

Those with a spiritual gift of hospitality – you love throwing parties. You love hosting events. You love cooking dinner. You watch the Food Network and take notes. You have salad forks. For those of you who don’t know, those are littler forks and they sit next to the other forks. It’s like a mommy fork and a baby fork and they, they go together. You have napkins that are made out of material and you use them. You have lots and lots of plates. You love to have people over to your house. You love music and cooking and design and you love décor and you love entertaining and you love throwing parties and you love it, because what you love is – you love bringing people together and seeing them have fun and meet and hang out and chat. You love that. You love that people get saved and fall in love and build friendships in your house. So much of hospitality happens in your house and if some of you are married, you like to play matchmaker with your gift of hospitality. So you’re like, meet the single gal who loves Star Trek, which is why she’s single and you meet this other guy, true story. You meet this other guy who loves Star Trek and of course, he’s single too, and you think, “We could have them have over for dinner and we could put out nametags and we could sit the Trekkies next to each other. And then we could say, ‘Okay, let’s all hold hands and pray to Jesus, hold hands. Do you like that? That’s nice, isn’t it? That’s nice.”

You love that. You love doing that stuff, right? Mom has a baby and you, “Ooh, we gotta bring them food,” and you feed them. You love that. That’s who you are. Right, I’ve got it in your notes, but this is welcoming in – this is taking care of your family, your friends and also strangers to make them your friends. You’re the person, you meet somebody, you’re like, “You’re sure nice. I’m gonna bake you a pie. You wanna come to my house?” That’s the gift of hospitality or a stalker. Check, right? But you’re the people who love. You love and open home. You love to have people over. It makes you happy. That is the way that it works.

How about Jesus? Did he have the gift of hospitality? He hung out with the weirdest wing nuts. He go over to dinner with tax, tax collectors and freaks and nutjobs and weirdoes and gals who have no self-control and everybody’s like, “He’s got the weirdest friends. He still does. Look around! I mean, we’re all here for the party, right? The Jesus party. He still hangs out with the wingnuts like us. Jesus also fed people, right? He was into hospitality. One of the most famous paintings in the world is Jesus eating with his disciples at the last supper. He ate with them a lot. And here’s what Jesus has done. Jesus has welcomed us hospitably into the family of God. He says in John’s gospel, “I’m going ahead of you to prepare a place.” And Revelation 19 and Isaiah 25, talk about this great party at the end of the age. So what’s Jesus doing right now? He’s setting up a party. All of you with the gift of hospitality, you’re just throwing the prefunk, right? That’s what you’re doing. “Come on over. We’re gonna practice for the kingdom. We’ll get it started early and then we’ll go to the big show. That’s how you work.

How many of you love this? You love having people over. Your house is full, you’re just giddy. You think through your home in terms of guests. Where are they gonna park? Are they gonna be able to find us? You know? Do we have enough seats? Do we have enough dining room chairs? Do we have a place in the living room for everyone to mingle? Is the kitchen opened up to the dining and living area so while I’m getting everything ready, I could still interact with the guests? Do we have hardwood floors because if they drop something, I don’t wanna feel bad? My wife actually told me that at one point. She’s like, “I need a house with hardwood floors so if they drop something, they won’t feel bad.” I’m like, “What does their emotional state have to do with my flooring? How is that my responsibility?” The gift of hospitality, right? So I ask my wife, “What do you need, big kitchen, two ovens so we could feed a million people? Formal dining room, informal dining room, extra chairs, extra parking, next thing I know, I’m laying concrete in my house so more people could park and come over to eat?” I mean, this is what my wife does. When we first started the church, we’d have upwards of 100 people a week in our home for different events. We recently – we have a lot of events in our home today, too because the Bible says that elders need to practice hospitality.

I’ll tell you a funny story. My wife recently – she always like to have people over – I’m a little more of a introvert. And so we get this house and she’s like, “Yes! This is a great entertaining house! This is gonna be awesome.” I’m like, “Heh heh. Okay, baby.” I mean, I love hospitality for me, like when she’s throwing parties just for me, I’m so cool with that. When she’s cooking meals just for me, this is my wickedness, but I know the gifts are to build up the church and build up the body, “Okay, have them over.” So, we have people over and she loves to entertain and recently – here’s what happened – true story. She – at the beginning of the summer – she’s like, “Can we do the Backyard Bible Club? I was like, “What is that?” She’s like, “for five days, you have all the kids over to your house.” I was like, “Did we do something wrong? I mean, what – that seems like cruel and unusual punishment. What – you want everybody at our house?” She’s like, “Yeah. I wanna have all the kids over and I want them to have games and food and I want them to run around and have fun and I want all our kids to bring all their friends and I want all the neighbor kids and I want to fill up the house and I want to fill up the yard with kids, can we do it?” I was like, “Man. You can. That’s a great idea. I’ll be somewhere else.”

So, we went for it, I’m like, “Okay,” I love my wife. So next thing I know, I got 50 kids in my house. Little kids. All ripping up my yard, making noise, eating everything. Dudes are peeing. Having water gun fights. Girls are all in dresses, walking around like princesses. I mean, my house is crazy and I come home on a Friday – I have a full blow-up bouncy house from the state fair in my yard and there’s like 20 kids in there. “We love Jesus and Pastor Mark and it’s awesome!” I’m like, “What in the world is going on?” Next thing I know, a week later, the cops show up because one of my neighbors called the cops on the Backyard Bible Club.

Only in Seattle do you call the cops on the little kids singing to Jesus and jumping in the bouncy house, right? It’s like, we got naked people in freaking parades, everybody’s like, “That’s not a problem.” You know, I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense. “Oh, look at those kids. They’re singing. We should arrest them.” You know? I mean, they’re all like, five years old. So the guy from the city comes to my house, literally, knocks on my door. I open it up. He’s like, “I received a complaint that you had a bunch of children at your house,” I’m like, “Are you kidding me?” Are you kidding me?

So the city comes over to my house and they’re like, “Is it true you had a bunch of kids at your house?” I’m like, “Yeah, it was a Backyard Bible Club.” I said, “Who called you?” They said, “We can’t say.” “Why?” I said, “Because I do not have the gift of mercy and I need to know because we need to talk. My wife has the gift of hospitality and I don’t have the gift of mercy, so you gotta tell me. She – we had 50 kids over to love Jesus. Is that a problem?” He’s like, “No.” I said, “Well you don’t have to tell me who it is.” He said, “Why?” I said, “I also have the gift of discernment and I will find them.” Call the cops on the kids’ Bible study. I mean, wow. You get, you get cuts in the line to hell for that. That’s bad. That’s what you get.

So if you have this gift, this – I’m married to the woman who’s got this gift. She’s always got a extra turkey in the freezer just in case 27 people come over. Never know. I mean, she’s just always ready to roll. Ready to entertain. Loves it. God bless her. It’s a lot of fun. What do you do with it, right? Well, here’s what you do. You host a community group. Have everybody over to your house. Host a Bible study. Sign up, it’s great, right? Have informal ministry. You’re throwing house parties, having people over, just celebrating the kingdom, having a great time hanging out. Also, too, we could use you on Sundays. Be an usher, a greeter. “Hi, how are you?” Big smile, say hi. Help set up refreshments, hospitality, welcome everybody. Make sure this is a great place. That everybody that comes in is loved and greeted and feels at home and has a good time. Mom gives birth to a baby. Somebody’s recovering from surgery. You’re the one who cooks a meal and sets it all up and delivers it and loves them and uses your gift of hospitality.

I’m out of time. I’ll try and wrap this all up for you. Here’s what we’re talking about. We’re talking about Jesus. In an exceedingly practical, personal way. And here’s what we learned about Jesus. That he is here to encourage us. If you’ve walked away from God, you’ve wandered for a while, you’ve been in sin or disobedience, Jesus is here to exhort you, to encourage you back to Bible and him and church and us. Right, Jesus is here to encourage you. If you’re suffering, it’s been a hard season, you’re discouraged. Jesus is here to encourage you.

Jesus is also a giver. That he has given you forgiveness of sin. He’s given you redemption. He’s given you salvation. He’s given you himself and in so doing he has given us mercy, right? I mean, Jesus has offered mercy. Nobody’s offering mercy in the whole world, friends, but Jesus. Nobody is offering mercy but Jesus. Everybody wants vengeance and justice and retribution and, and Jesus – Jesus died and suffered because he loves us and he, he met the demands of justice and he’s all about justice. But then he’s given us mercy because he’s paid our debt of justice.

Do you know Jesus? Do you love Jesus? Are you following Jesus? Are you a Christian? Have you received mercy from Jesus? Have you acknowledged that you’re a sinner? That he’s God and that his mercy is your only hope? We would just so encourage you to Jesus. Give your life to Jesus, even if in your seat tonight. Just quietly, you – even in your own heart, just say, “Jesus, I’m a sinner. You’re God. Give me mercy. Take away my sins.” And then he will lead you. He’ll lead you for the rest of your life to be more like him and ultimately to be forever with him and that is his hospitality, that he’s welcomed you into the family of God and he will welcome you into his eternal kingdom of Heaven. That he will welcome you to the party that never ends.

So we’re really gathered here today to look that aspects of the ministry of Jesus and to be so grateful for the person and the work of Jesus, and to celebrate the person in the work of Jesus, and then to respond by leaving here to do what? Well, to encourage people. To give mercy to people. To help lead other people toward Jesus. To give kindly and generously he to others in need, so that the tangibly experience the mercy and the love of God through us giving them money and food and help and he sharing the abundance of what we have, and inviting people into our home for meals and parties to show them what the kingdom is ultimately going to be like when we’re all hanging out together with the king.

So at this point, we always give you a chance to respond by becoming a Christian. Giving yourself to Jesus. By praying that God would reveal to you the gift in the ministry of how you’re supposed to plug into this church because we love you and we want you to plug in. It’s a vital role that you will serve, wherever God would put you and we love you. We want you to experience the same joy we do serving Jesus and being a part of this great thing that he is doing here.

And when you’re ready, you could come forward, if you’re a Christian or become one today, to partake of communion. To remember the body and blood of Jesus. How mercy was given and justice was satisfied through the death of Jesus in our place, for our sins. You can give of your tithes and offerings. If you’re not a Christian, or you’re a first-time visitor, don’t give. We don’t want your money, but if this is your church, give generously. That is part of our response. That is part of the grace of giving, and then we’ll sing, and will celebrate. We will gather together to date as God’s people if to celebrate him welcoming us into his family and then scatter here to serve Jesus, each of us with a particular aspect of his ministry that we are privileged to carry with us.

But we want everyone to be vitally involved. We want each of you to be intricately connected to Jesus and to this church and to be a vital part of this body of Jesus Christ and we want more people to meet Jesus, more people to get mercy, more people to have their lives changed by the one who has changed us forever.

Lord Jesus, we come in your name. We come in your presence. We come under your word. We come in your authority. We come for your glory. We come on your mission. We come as your people, and Lord Jesus, we simply say thank you for how you have done so much for us. You’ve encouraged us. You’ve given yourself to us. You have led us. You have extended to us mercy. That you have hospitably welcomed us into friendship with you though we were strangers. May we respond with hearts of gratitude and minds of belief. May we respond with lives of obedience and ministry service enjoyed, and we ask this in your good name. Amen.

 

Week 4 of a 6 week study of the spiritual gifts. This week we depart from the book of 1 Corinthians to examine the gifts of encouragement, giving, leadership, mercy, and hospitality.

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