Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Monday, October 09, 2006

Sermon--10/8/06--New Creation Gifts

2/8/04—New Creation Gifts
I remember hearing about reporters and doctors that go to interview and study athletes a few weeks after the Olympics. Those athletes, especially the ones who had used steroids to boost muscle mass and stamina, often didn’t look anything like they did during the Olympics. During the games, you could see their big biceps and their washboard stomach, but after the Olympics, they would get some much needed rest & time off.

Have you ever seen an Olympian a few weeks after the Olympics? They’d be gone! The arms would be flabby, the stomachs wouldn’t be as strong. Legs would lose their definition. What happened to all those hard muscles? All that hard word would be lost in a matter of weeks. At some point, they’d have to start all over again to be ready for the next competition.

So not only do you have to work hard to build the muscles, you’ve got to work hard just to maintain what you’ve got otherwise it will be lost. If you don’t exercise your muscles, they weaken.

2 Corinthians 5:17-- Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” As a New Creation, you have been given gifts and abilities through the Holy Spirit— 1 Corinthians 7:7—“Each man has his own gift from God.” 1 Cor. 12:4-5—“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.

In the same way, if you don’t utilize the abilities and skills God has given you, they weaken. You have the potential to lose them. Jesus taught the parable of the talents to emphasize this truth. As a New Creation in Christ,
1. New Creation Gifts In the Kingdom of God—Talents—Matt. 25:14-15
a. The master desires to entrust his assets to his servants. All His servants are entrusted with something that they are responsible for. Given for a purpose—V. 7—Now to each one, the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”

b. This Master is not foolish, he knows that everyone is not the same so the Master determines what each servant is capable of doing—“each according to his ability”

c. God doesn’t apply a cookie cutter standard to His children. God designed us and empowers each of us uniquely and for a purpose. He gives us “talents” or gifts to use on His behalf. Every believer in Christ received at least one gift, we are stewards of God’s Kingdom Assets that come when we become New Creations.

d. Romans 12:4-8 “Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

e. So we have these gifts that God desires to give us for us to use. The question becomes, what do we do with the talents we’re given?

2. New Creation Opportunity— Matt. 25:16-18
a. The man with the 5 talents quickly proved the master’s confidence was warranted. He went “at once and put his money to work and gained 5 more”. So did the servant who got 2 talentss.

b. They saw the opportunity presented them and went after it. They used their talents to further the Master’s assets. And we have the same opportunity, to further our God’s Kingdom, to increase His glory and to add not wealth but something far more valuable to God—People He loves.

c. But sadly, we are often more like the 3rd servant who didn’t take advantage of the opportunity that the Master had given him. Instead, he dug a hole in the ground and hid the talent. IOW’s, he didn’t use the money, the Master’s assets the way the master desired him to.

d. As we’ll find out later, the reason had more to do with the attitude the servant had toward the master than it did of his own ability.

e. The talents the servants were given could either be used, misused or they could lie unused. The muscles these talents represent could either grow stronger or weaken with non-use.

f. How you choose to use your spiritual talent muscles speaks to your spiritual fitness. At this point, which servant most describes you?
g. Are you are a New Creation in Christ, you are endowed with gifts or talents from God that He desires for you to use in His Kingdom and you are using them? Or are you the New Creation Servant, given gifts and talents from God that refuses to use their gifts? If you’re not using your talents, the Body of Christ is suffering with that loss.

h. You are essentially burying yourself in the dirt. You’ve dug a hole and climbed down in it waiting for the world to pass you by.

i. We all marveled at seeing Sadaam Hussein, once a powerful dictator, cowering in a hole in the desert. But that reality is insignificant compared to the Servants of God making themselves unavailable for God to use. Here we have the power of God at our disposal and we live as if we have nothing at all.

j. Are your spiritual muscles going unused? Are your gifts and talents getting stronger or are they weakening? It’s important to answer those questions because…

k. There are some expectations with the talents and gifts we are given. There is Accountability that God will hold us to.

3. New Creation Expectations & Accountability—Matt. 25:19

a. Two things we can be sure of, the Master’s Return and the settling of our accounts. At some point, either in the Second Coming of Christ or in our own death, God will come to us to reckon the investment He has made in our lives. Believers will have to account for the gifts and talents the Spirit has given us.

b. People spend millions of dollars on home fitness machines in order to stay in shape, and a significant percentage of those machines are used for a little while and then they gather dust. The promise of improving health goes unattained, not because of the failure of the machine, but the failure of the person to effectively use what they have.

c. But how do we attempt to stay spiritually strong? Our spiritual muscles are suffering from not being used; we’ve become spiritually lazy and flabby. Because of that we’ll have to go into stricter training.

d. God desires us to go into training so our faith will be refined because at some point, God will examine us to determine if we are of any use to Him in growing His Kingdom, to determine whether we are using His talents responsibly.

e. 1 Cor. 3:10-14—“1CO 3:10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward.

f. 1 Peter 3:6-7—“6 In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. 7 These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

g. God will assess how well we have used the talents, even the Faith He has given us. And He does so, not b/c He wants to see us fail, but b/c He wants to see us succeed and grow stronger in our faith. Jesus wants to see our spiritual muscles strong and in shape. And depending on how we have used our talents, on how we have been faithful with His generosity, will determine whether we experience His blessing or the realization of just what we have been missing out on. Our salvation is not lost, but the greater joy in our salvation is lessened and we understand the true nature of our loss.

4. New Creation Blessing—Matt. 25:20-30
a. The first servant took his 5 talents and earned 5 more. The second servant with 2 talents earned 2 more. They took the talents they had been given and used them responsibly. They understood their responsibility to the Master when they said, “you ‘entrusted’ me”
b. And how does the Master respond to them? He says, “well done, good and faithful servant.” The Master is able to see the heart of his servant by how faithful he was with the talents given to him.
c. God can see our hearts by how faithfully we serve Him with whatever ability we have. It tells Him of our love for Him, our service tells Him of our devotion to Him.

d. God rewarded the 2 Faithful servants. He said, “you have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

e. Our faithful service to God will have a benefit in eternity. We will have the praise of our Savior, we will be given a greater responsibility in His kingdom and we will be invited to fully share in the Master’s Happiness. His Presence will be ours, His joy will fill our hearts.

5. New Creation Loss—v. 24-25
a. But the heart of the 3rd servant was different. And it started with the view he had of his Master. READ 24-25

b. This servant was more afraid of the master, he resented the master for exploiting and benefiting from the work of others.

c. He didn’t want to try hard with his talent b/c he didn’t think he would see much if any profit or benefit from it. And he was afraid of losing the talent and bringing on the “hard” wrath of his master.

d. This servant had no idea who his Master was, this servant had love for His master.

e. He didn’t realize that when the master benefits, when the master’s kingdom grows, the servant will benefit, that the master desires to bless and reward. His heart was revealed to his master.

f. How is your heart revealed to God? Do you fear Him as a hard demanding God or do you love Him and know Him as a God who rejoices in faithfulness and desires to bless?

g. Do you believe God is a hard master, taking advantage of His people? Are you more afraid of failing Him than of benefiting Him? If that is your attitude, you will suffer loss from it. You will miss out on many things that God desires for your life. God wants you to serve and use whatever talents you have. You don’t have to fear God when all you desire to be is faithful.

h. Now we get to see the reaction of the Master. Vs. 26-30. The master recognizes the heart of the servant and sees through his excuses for not using his talent. The Master sees the blame that the servant was trying to pass off onto the master. “It’s really your fault. If you weren’t so hard and demanding, I could have used this talent.”

i. The Master wasn’t confirming that he took advantage of his workers. When he said, “so you knew, that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?” that is, I believe a sarcastic statement.

j. “you knew, you decided, you’ve got it in your head that I’m a hard master?”

k. This is a prejudice, a pre-judgment of the character of the Master so the servant could excuse his behavior. I’ve done that before, so have several people in Scripture, haven’t you? Have you ever given excuses like this one:

“I’m not going to share my testimony of God changing my life because all these people will think worse of me, and besides, I’m not good at speaking in front of people.”

OR “There’s too many good singers in here for me to try to sing a solo.”
OR “There’s people smarter than me that can teach the Bible. I’d hate to say something wrong and have to be corrected, so I’m not going to teach at all.”

OR “well, I’m not going to talk to that person about Jesus b/c I know he doesn’t like me, I don’t really like him and he’s probably not going say ‘yes’ to God anyway”

l. God sees through all the best excuses we can give for not using the talents we’ve been given. He saw through all of mine when I was running from being a pastor.

m. The danger we face is that if we don’t use the gift God has given us to benefit the Body of Christ and the Kingdom of God, we could very well lose that gift and it will be given to someone who will make use of it. READ v. 28. God intends for the Body of Christ to be built up. And if we are not fulfilling the part we are supposed to fill, the body suffers, but eventually, God will raise up someone else to fill that need.

n. We can lose the talent and gift we have been given if we do not put it to use. Remember that passage earlier.

o. 1 Cor 3:12-15—“If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames.”

p. Our work and accomplishments in life will be examined and only that which grows the Kingdom of God will survive. There will be many things, many of our favorite things, many things that we spend our time in, things that we consider great accomplishments that will not survive this process. They will be burned up, we will suffer loss. Most importantly, we will miss out on the blessings of our master, we will miss out on the joy of our Master.

q. I want you to know that Jesus is not telling this parable b/c He wants to see us fail, b/c He wants to take the gifts and talents away from us. He tells this parable for one main reason. To spur us to action and readiness!

r. He wants us to take seriously our responsibility to use the gifts and talents we’ve been given to further the work of the Kingdom of God and Strengthen the Body of Christ. We must use the gifts we have just like we must use our muscles. If we don’t use them, we become flabby and weak.

s. God wants you to be strong. He wants to say “well done, good and faithful servant… come and share your master’s happiness.” That is what your gifts are for, not for ourselves, but for Him.

t. What is your heart?

u. Everyone here in this room that has received Jesus has a gift, has a talent that our Master has given you.

v. Your gift is for the common good—to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God.

w. God Expects you to Use Your Gift to Serve Him and others.

x. You are Responsible for How you Use Your gift. God will Hold You accountable—in blessing or discipline.

y. How you use your gift is a measure of your maturity in Christ

z. God Desires to See You Faithfully and Successfully Use Your Gift.

aa. Are you using your gift, are you a strong, mature believer or a flabby Christian? How you answer that question says a lot about your love for Him. If you love Him, then Respond to Him when He speaks to you
bb. Maybe you look at your life and you realize that you’re not using the gifts and talents to further His kingdom. Let me say that one of our responsibilities at UBC is to encourage you and to provide you with opportunities to serve God. Respond to Him and commit to living for Him
cc. Maybe you look at your life and you are using your gifts—Respond to Him with Thanksgiving for using you at all.
dd. Maybe you look at your life and you don’t know how God wants to use you or what your gifts are—then respond to Him and we’ll be a part of the faith journey to discover it.
ee. Maybe you look at your life and you realize that you have no gift b/c you are not a New Creation—you’ve never asked Christ into your life.

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