God has endowed every believer with certain gifts for the purpose of building up His body, the church (Eph. 4:16). We do our Savior a great disservice when we fail to use the gifts that He has graciously imparted to us toward that end. The significance of that very weighty responsibility is underscored by John Owen, who described such gifts as
that without which the church cannot subsist in the world, nor can believers be useful unto one another and the rest of mankind, unto the glory of Christ, as they ought to be. . . . Gifts of the Spirit give the church its inward organic life and its outward visible form.
Yet employing our gifts to serve the body of Christ addresses only one side of the ecclesiastical equation—namely, our actions. There is also the matter of our attitude. For better or worse, every action that we take comes with an attitude. The reality of the relationship between attitude and action is apparent in God’s Word in such texts as Philippians 2:14, where we are commanded to “do all things [action] without grumbling or disputing [attitude],” and 1 Peter 4:9, where we are told to “show hospitality to one another [action] without grumbling [attitude].”
We are to lovingly employ our spiritual gifts in the building up of the body of Christ, but it is impossible for us to do so apart from the power of the Spirit of God, who imparts those gifts to us to begin with (John 14:16–17). You and I can do nothing apart from Christ (15:5). That reality should keep us in a posture of contrite dependence on God, for by means of His Spirit He alone indwells us, equips us, and enables us to serve His church in a manner that brings glory and honor to Him.
In terms of believers’ using their giftedness to help the church grow, the central matter is love. Unless our service to the church is motivated by love, a love that mirrors the sacrificial heart attitude of our Savior, who, while we were still unredeemed sinners, willingly emptied Himself for our sakes (Rom. 5:6, 8; Phil. 2:5–8), our gifts, regardless of how vigorously exercised or well intentioned, are ultimately of no benefit to the church or, for that matter, to the world to which we have been commissioned by Christ to be shining lights (Matt. 5:14–16; 2 Cor. 5:20).
Charles H. Spurgeon wisely and unambiguously said:
We are not saved by service, but we are saved to service. When we are once saved, thenceforward we live in the service of our Lord. If we refuse to be his servants, we are not saved, for we still remain evidently the servants of self, and the servants of Satan.
Christ has called each of us to employ the gifts that He has given us in sacrificial service to His church. We are to do so not only in our actions but in our attitudes as well. As the Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:3, “If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”