It is a thrill to be back here at Maranatha Bible Church. Pastor Jessie invited me to speak this morning. The Lord has put 1 Corinthians 12:1-13 in my heart to share with you. These words are particularly important for churches to keep in mind, because, like the Corinthian church in Paul’s day, it is very easy for us to be led by the flesh, and not by the Holy Spirit.
1Brothers I do not want you to be misled about spiritual gifts. 2 You know that when you were pagans whenever someone led you, they were leading you off the path, and making you follow voiceless and useless idols. 3 That is why I want you to understand that no one speaking by the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one is able to say “Jesus is Lord” except by the Holy Spirit.
A CHURCH LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT STAYS ON THE RIGHT PATH
Paul tells the Corinthians that they were formerly led off the right path. When he brought the gospel to them, it gave the chance to get back on the right path. But he warns them that even a church who thinks it is obeying the Spirit can be operating in the flesh. The difference is the focus on Jesus.
4 Now there are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit gives each kind. 5 There are different ministry gifts, but the same Lord; 6 and there are different manifestation gifts, but it is the same God who activates them all in everyone.
A CHURCH LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT DEMONSTRATES UNITY
The unity of the church is designed to come from the top down. When we seek unity of the flesh, that is uniformity, and it does not work. It comes from the wrong source. Legalism destroys churches as well as people. Our unity must come from God. It is not rule by democracy, and it is not rule by tyranny of the most powerful or most popular.
7 In each believer the Spirit manifests for the good of everyone. 8 To one the Spirit gives something insightful to say, and to another the same Spirit gives something intelligent to say, 9 to another the same Spirit gives extraordinary faith, to another the one Spirit gives power to heal, 10 to another he enables the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another the ability to speak various kinds of languages, to another the explanation of things said in other languages. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who gives to each one individually exactly the gift he wants him to have.
A CHURCH LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT DEMONSTRATES DIVERSITY AT THE SAME TIME
One of the reasons flesh unity does not work is that the Holy Spirit works within us in different ways, so we are automatically going to be different from each other. God wants to reach the community through all of us, and our diversity is his means of doing that.
When the flesh leads, either insight or intelligence will prevail. But when the Holy Spirit leads, both insightful and intelligent words are spoken.
When the flesh leads, someone’s individual ministry becomes the measure of the church’s success. But when the Holy Spirit leads, everyone’s ministry is given its proper place, and the Lord of the church is glorified instead of one of his servants.
In 2 Corinthians we discover that a group of leaders within the Corinthian church had hijacked it, and were teaching another Christ, a different spirit, and a different gospel! The LORD gave us these epistles because we are susceptible to idolizing others, which can lead to apostasy as well.
12 Because just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 Because one Spirit immersed us all into one body- Jews or Greeks, slaves or free- and all of us were given a drink of that one Spirit.
A CHURCH LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT DEMONSTRATES EQUALITY
Paul emphasizes the fact that the Corinthian church is made up of a diverse lot of people. Some of those people were Jews, and some of them were Greeks. Some of them were slaves and some of them were free – in fact some of them employed slaves who were also Christians.
But from the standpoint of the who they were in Christ, they were one body. In a body, every member has the same status as every other member. The Corinthians were all equal, not because it was a democracy, but because it was a church.
The Corinthians had taken this truth and distorted it, because they were being led by the flesh. So they began to build authority pyramids, to determine who the top dogs were. Paul wrote them to explain that in the church, there are no top dogs. The Corinthian fellowships were dysfunctional because they were seeking to establish a hierarchy.
Hierarchies destroy churches because churches were designed to function like bodies. In a body, each member is equal in worth, because the body can only function properly when each member does its work.
Our challenge today is to stop being led by the flesh. It will mean that we have to humbly accept that God is going to do some things without getting permission from our church leadership. It will mean that we are going to have to trust each other to be what God says we all are. The temptation is to stay within our comfort zones, and we can do that. But the price that we pay for doing that is that some of the things that God’s Holy Spirit wants to do will not be done. As a result, some of the people within the church will stay hurting, and some outside the church will stay unreached.
Being led by the Spirit may mean launching out into a new ministry. It may mean that God will call on you to say something that you know others are going to oppose. It may mean doing something that others will criticize. Real church ministry is a messy thing. I cannot promise you that your new ministry will be accepted. I cannot even promise that you will always have success.
All I am saying is that we often get it wrong, and our Lord wants us to get it right. Following Christ is not the same thing as playing “follow the leader.”
LORD, give us courage to follow you into the right path. We know you want to speak and act through us. Show us how to follow your leading, to accomplish your will, to be your church.
 2 Corinthians 11:4-5.