Pastor Ron
“Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”   James 1:17 (NRSV)
Do you love receiving gifts? I’ll never forget a story my father told me. He was in seventh or eighth grade and a girl really liked him so she gave him a jackknife. He liked the knife, but he was so afraid that others might find out who gave it to him and tease him about it that even though he wanted the knife, he flushed it down the toilet instead of facing the embarrassment of how he came to have it.

Paul reminds us that God has given us many gifts within the great expansive gift of life in Christ. Like a branch in the vine, we are to abide in him while he takes up residence in us. Last week we looked at the Holy Spirit living and abiding in us. On earth, Jesus was with us and for us, but through the Spirit’s indwelling he now lives within us! The Spirit is Christ’s continuous indwelling presence.

This weeks passage in Ephesians reminds us that we have not only become a temple for God’s Spirit, he has also passed out gifts to oversee and safeguard our life in him:

“But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said, ‘When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive; he gave gifts to his people.’ The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”  Ephesians 4:7, 8, 11, 12

Paul mentions other gifts of the Spirit in letters like I Corinthians 12 and Romans 12.  These are primarily gifts of ministry and service spread across the church. The gifts mentioned here in the letter to the Ephesians have more to do with equipping and growing the church in steadfast unity to Christ. They are leadership gifts of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers to equip the saints for the work of ministry and building up of Christ’s body.

This means that God is not only filling us with himself like a pitcher being filled with pure water, he has also handed out gifts of spiritual leadership to maintain and grow the inner life of his church. Church leaders imbued with God’s spirit are his agents called to superintend and develop the life of God in the church. The Spirit is the new life of God growing in his church and spirit-filled leaders keep the church pointed back to the source of their new life in Him.

This is how God is bringing the church to maturity. It’s how the church is becoming the presence of Christ in the world. It also means that the success of church leadership is in direct proportion to the leader’s connection to Christ since people rarely grow beyond the spiritual vitality and maturity of their leaders. Leaders must be selected for their own spiritual maturity if they are going to serve the mission of Christ and the spiritual growth of the church. The evidence of their leadership is the equipping of the saints for ministry. An unequipped church will not engage their ministry revealing a lack of spirit-filled leadership and thus stunting the growth and vitality of the church.

I wonder sometimes if we have missed Paul’s point about the gift of spirit-filled leaders, or like my father – failed to appreciate this very precious gift? If we wonder why our churches are not more united in Christ, on fire for God, committed to exalting Christ, serving others, and willing to sacrifice for the kingdom – maybe it’s not because God is holding back the spiritual firepower to make it happen. According to what Paul has written here, God has already given the Spirit without measure and the gifts to oversee the Spirit’s work. Maybe we don’t have to look any further than the lack of spiritual maturity and fervor of our leaders or how far each church member is willing and prepared to listen, be taught, and to follow in their lead. It is our challenge to desire Christ’s living presence in our lives – to appreciate the gifts he has doled out to the church and to glory in the vitality and spiritual power bequeathed us!