In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote,
All sorts of people are fond of repeating the Christian statement that “God is love.” But they seem not to notice that the words “God is love” have no real meaning unless God contains at least two Persons. Love is something that one person has for another person. If God was a single person, then before the world was made, He was not love…We’ve got to “enter that pattern,” but we can’t enter that pattern until that pattern enters us: “We love because he first loved us.”
So, in order for God to be Love He had to be more than one, and yet Scripture reveals that God is one: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one” (Deuteronomy 6:4). Mysteriously, God is three persons and one substance. And Jesus came “that we might be one as He and the Father are One…that we might be one in Him.”
Listen to how Paul invites us to participate in that kind of unity in Ephesians 4:1-8
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”
That’s how Paul encouraged the Ephesians to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which they had been called. And to this day, the Church, Christ’s body, is to walk in a manner worthy of her calling—united, growing up in every way into Him, who is the Head.
And for what purpose?
“…That he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10b).
And how does He do it? He chose to involve us! He gave each one of us grace “according to the measure of Christ’s gift” (Eph. 4:7).
And for this purpose, Christ gave gifts: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers for equipping the saints (that’s us), that the body might “build itself up in love.” (Eph. 4: 11 &16b)
It’s not just pastors that build up the body; it’s the body that builds the body in love. That’s what all of our gifts are for. And yet, the church has divided into a zillion denominations arguing over the gifts of the Spirit and arguing over the communion table where they all come together.
It’s like we’ve almost entirely missed the big picture. And so we don’t understand the gifts. In fact, the moment some of us hear “gifts” we might think of a time when gifts were distributed by a loved one to us and those around us and the idea made us anxious because we wondered if our gift was as meaningful, valuable or special as the gift others received. We often think of our Heavenly Father in terms of our earthly experiences.
We ask: Does my Heavenly Father love me as much as those around me?
Well, God the Father paid the same for each gift. He loves each of us with all His heart…with Jesus Christ and Him crucified on a tree, the measure is Christ’s gift. He loves each of us the same amount, and yet, that gift takes a different form in each child.
You may think you don’t have a gift, but you do:
1 Corinthians 12:7 says, “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” “To each…”
And the gift your Father has given you, the manifestation of His Spirit in you, is priceless because it plays a vital role in His body.
In fear, we think: “All the gifts should be just the same,” and we forget that the gifts are gifts so we get proud of our gifts as if they weren’t gifts…but things we produced as if others could have them if only they tried as hard as we. We get proud of our gifts and intimidated by gifts in others.
A friend once prayed for me asking God why He didn’t give me the gift I wanted, and she heard God say, “Because if I gave that gift to Peter, he wouldn’t need my body.”
In Ephesians 4 (unlike other places), Paul isn’t just saying that you are uniquely gifted; he’s saying that you are the unique gift. Christ doesn’t just give a gift of prophecy; He gives prophets.
You are the gift:
You, with the places you feel gifted and don’t feel gifted…
You, with the unique contours of your personality…
You, with your unique weaknesses and strengths…
You are a gift given to the Body of Christ!
And we shouldn’t be scared to share our gifts because it is Jesus who gives us our gifts: “And he gave gifts to men” (Eph. 4:8). When I give my gifts, I’m simply passing on a gift Jesus has already given. I’m giving my life, but more accurately, I’m giving what I call my life because it’s actually Christ’s life.
You know? Jesus said, “I am the Life,” not “a life,” but “the Life.” There’s only one life. That means if anyone has any life it’s Christ’s life.
But sharing that life can be scary because we think life is scarce and it’s something we must hold on to! But Jesus calls us to what seems scary because He knows that sharing the life is the only true path to life. Listen to what He says in Mark 8:34-35
“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
If I were to cut off my finger and put it in a cup on the table, would it have life? It would have blood, and it would look alive, and yet, it’s good as dead. Since we each are a part of the body of Christ, cutting ourselves off from the body, refusing to share the life only leads to death.
See? If you think your life is your life, and so hang on to life—trying to save it, you cut yourself off from the body and you will lose it.
Jesus said, “If you lose your life for my sake and the gospel, you will save it.”
Maybe we exist in this fallen world to learn how to lose our lives by sharing our lives rather than holding onto them—how to give our lives, sacrifice our lives, to be crucified that we might be resurrected in Christ, animated as His Body.
Losing our lives can truly be scary if we think life is scarce, but we have been given the grace to do so “according to the measure of Christ’s gift.”
And what is the measure of Christ’s gift?
How much life flows from the ancient tree?
How much blood flows from the Lamb upon His throne into His Body?
Julian of Norwich wrote, “There is a river that flows from the throne of grace.” “His blood is the most plentiful substance in all the universe.” There’s enough blood for all. He died for all!
What if we really got the picture: we are unique and indispensable parts of the Body of Christ, and the people around us are unique and indispensable parts of the Body of Christ. Life is not our own possession but we are Life’s possession? Which means, we are Christ’s possession. Which means all belongs to us, and we belong to all.
What if each vessel didn’t really hold the blood but constantly transmitted the blood without reservation, such that, as soon as it was emptied it would be filled? Then each vessel would constantly be emptied…but never be empty, for it would constantly be filled. Each vessel would constantly lose its life, and yet always be filled with life, a river of life.
Well, that sounds like a body—full of life! There’d be One Spirit, One Life, One Faith, One Knowledge, One Grace.
All life is Christ’s life.
We are gifts to be given, and that’s how we truly live.
This devotional was prepared by Kimberly Weynen, Peter Hiett’s assistant. It is a compilation of devotional thoughts from Kimberly and excerpts from Peter’s sermon titled “A Gift to Be Given” To read, watch or listen to the sermon in its entirety click here: A Gift to Be Given
* Discussion Questions are available here: Discussion Questions 2/3/2013