22nd August 2010
Romans 12:1- 8
The passage that we are going to begin to look at today has been very important to my understanding of what we mean by the Church.
Q. What is the Church? How should it function? What is my role in it? This passage is essential to our understanding.
One of the foundation stones of Presbyterianism is the ‘priesthood or ministry of all believers’.
There is no difference between ordained ministers (like me) and normal people. The Bible simply does not make a distinction between the clergy (pastor) and the laity.
The only difference is that ‘ministers’ are paid to be good and lay people are good for nothing. So we believe in the ministry of every believer. And Romans 12 helps us reach this conclusion.
Review: In the last great section of Romans, Paul’s teaching is on the very practical aspects of Christian living.
The first part of the book is doctrinal (what we believe) – the last part is practical (how we are to behave).
In verses 1 & 2, Paul begins with the most practical aspect of the Christian life and this is our personal commitment to Christ. (We looked at that last week).
And in vs. 3 Paul immediately moves into the second most important issue for every believer after our commitment to Jesus, which is our commitment to the body of Christ – the church. (Jim Wallis ‘The Call To Conversion’ – three fold conversion).
Today I want us to look at how to become all that God wants us to be as the Church or what it means to be a part of the body of Christ – how to find your place in the Church.
Step One: To Dedicate My Body
We covered this last week.
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God which is your spiritual worship.”
Obviously the starting point of the Christian life is our commitment to Christ.
But sadly some Christians have never settled this issue of dedicating their body. Paul doesn’t say dedicate your time or soul to God, he says dedicate your body; which is very practical isn’t it?
God these hands are your hands. These ears are now your ears, these eyes are your eyes, this mouth (tongue) your mouth may I only ever use them in ways that honour you.
When God owns your body, He owns all of you.
Paul says (before) you can be used by God (in ministry) you have to decide who and what is going to have first place in your life; so this is the first step.
But you know being committed to God is not enough.
Step 2: Eliminate Competing Distractions.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is, has good and pleasing and perfect will.” vs. 2
Paul says there is a positive thing we must do: dedicate our lives totally to God. Then he says there is a negative thing that you are going to have to eliminate.
If we are going to be used by God in a significant way we are not going to have time for everything we might otherwise like doing. We are going to have to look at our priorities and revise our lifestyle.
I meet a lot of Christians who are extremely talented and gifted people but they are just too busy for God to use them – they have so much to offer but they are just not available.
So often we want to serve the Lord as long as it doesn’t interfere with our life style.
Q. What is ‘the pattern of the world’ do you think?
I’ll tell you it’s the attitude that says; “Look out for number one” – seek out the good life – make as much money as you can because you can have it all!
Let me tell you it is just not true, we can’t have it all because none of us have time for everything.
Selection is the name of the game in life. There is always an opportunity cost for every choice we make.
So how should we make our selection – our choices?
On the basis of what is really important and what is going to last.
Q. What values are going to serve us well for a life time?
So what if I have the nicest house I can imagine. Is that going to last for eternity?
So what if I’m considered cool by my peers? ‘Get my picture on the cover of the Rolling Stones’. It’s not going to count in God’s eyes.
These things matter to a lost and hurting world but not to God.
Don’t get drawn into the world’s view of what constitute being successful. (Today roaster is tomorrow’s feather duster)
Don’t get into this idea that, “I’ll serve God when it’s convenient”.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” and all these other things will assume a different focus. Matt 6:33.
Some people of course try to do both. To seek God and to seek to enjoy the good life but something has to give.
“The person who burns the candle at both ends is not as bright as he thinks he is.”
You can get so many irons in the fire that you put the fire out.
Q. Ask yourself what do I need to eliminate from my schedule?
Step 3: Evaluate Your Strengths
“For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly then you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” vs.3
Be realistic. Our effectiveness for God is greatly influenced by or even dependent upon, our self confidence or lack of it.
Paul says, ‘do some realistic self appraisal?’
What are my strengths, what are my weakness? In what areas has God gifted me? What am I not good at?
Now sometimes it’s very difficult to be objective we tend to move to one of two extremes in evaluating ourselves.
We either think we are indispensable or conversely we think we are worthless. And both of these are wrong.
When we get full of pride and think that we are holding up the world – here is a little poem we need to hear.
Sometimes when you are feeling important
Sometimes when your ego is up
Sometimes when you’re taking for granted
That you are the prize winning pup.
Sometimes when you feel that your absence
Would leave an infallible hole
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how it humbles you soul
Take a bucket and fill it with water
Put your hand in it up to the wrist
Now pull it out fast and the hole that remains
It’s the measure of how you’ll be missed
You may splash all you please as you enter
And stir up the water galore
But stop and you’ll find in a minute
It’s right back where it was before.
The point is that if we don’t do our part, God’s kingdom is still going to go on. It’s not dependant on us. We are not indispensable. Any of us can be replaced.
But on the other hand all of us are needed. Paul is saying be realistic. Have sober judgment.
Ask yourself what am I good at? What do I like to do? What ability has God given me?
Don’t overestimate. Don’t underestimate. Either extreme is bad.
Some people think that humility means being self effacing.
“I’m of no consequence – Mr Yuck!”
Jesus Christ did not die for you because you were of no consequence.
He died for people made in the image of God – the fact that Christ died for us affirms our value and our worth to God.
Humility does not mean down grading ourselves. It means being honest and objective about our strengths and our weaknesses.
Paul is a good example of this.
Paul could say, “I was there when Stephen was stoned (to death).” “I’m the chief among sinners.”
And another time he could say, “Follow me as I follow Christ” i.e. I’m making an honest attempt to live for God.
So evaluate yourself with a sober judgment and find the balance between saying “I’m indispensable” and conversely “I’m worthless”
The next thing Paul says is do this, “in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”
Paul says that, faith for service (not salvation) is a gift – every one of us gets a measure of faith to serve.
God doesn’t expect us to cover all the bases in the Christian life.
Each of us has been gifted to do a few things well. We are responsible to use the measure of faith for the service that God has given us. Ephesians 2:10
Jesus told a lot of stories about servants entrusted with responsibilities – usually with their employer’s money, who told each to invest it well.
Some did and some didn’t.
These are parables of the kingdom of God and talk about the investment of our life in the kingdom. (This is what Paul’s talking about here).
We have all got a part to play in the Kingdom and God has equipped us to play our part – no more – no less.
Step 4: Cooperate With Other Believers.
There are no lone rangers in the Christian life. God says no Christian is to act independently of others. We are all inter-dependent.
We all depend on each other.
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” vs. 4-5.
Paul gives us an anatomy lesson to help us understand that the Church operates just like a body – it’s a very helpful analogy and it’s used in many places where the Church is called the body of Christ.
1 Cor. 12, Eph 4. The Church is the extension of Christ’s incarnation.
What do we learn from this idea of cooperating with other members of the body of Christ? Let me give you four important implications.
1. Every believer is a minister.
If you are a believer and in fellowship here at St Andrews you are a part of this body.
Q. So who are the ministers of St Andrews? The Bible says we all are. We are not all on the pastoral staff but we are all on the ministry team.
Eph 4:12, says God calls some to be pastors and teachers and evangelists who are given the task of preparing God’s people for the work of ministry. But beyond that God expects the body to uses its gifts to minister to itself and of course beyond itself.
2. Every believer has a function.
Obviously we don’t all do the same thing.
1 Cor. 12 says the hand doesn’t do what the foot does and the foot doesn’t do what the head does and the head doesn’t do what the mouth does.
Isn’t it good that all the members of our church have different functions?
Some people in our church are very good listeners they are good at listening to God and good at listening to people.
Some are very good at seeing (perceiving) what’s truth and what’s error. And then of course there is the mouth!
But every believer is a minister & every believer has a different function.
Sometimes chaos occurs in the church when we put people into positions for which they are not gifted. Just to plug a hole – fill a gap. But this is not what Christ equips us for.
3. Every ministry is important.
1 Cor. 12 says, ‘The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you.” And the foot can’t say to the ear I don’t need you.”
We are inter-dependent. We need each other. Some roles are prominent, obvious, some are less obvious.
The hand is obvious, the liver is not but which could we not live without?
For some people the little ‘night light’ in their bedroom that keep them from tripping over things when they get up in the middle of the night, is most important to them. It’s tiny but it’s highly valuable.
There are no little people in the Body of Christ. There is tremendous self esteem that comes from knowing that you and I have a part to play in the Church that no one else can fill.
I’m part of the picture and yet I m a very different part to someone else. God doesn’t try to force everyone into the same mould.
4. Every believer must cooperate
We need each other to form a healthy body. If one part doesn’t get on with another part we are only hurting ourselves.
How often does your right leg kick your left leg; very often? No. The parts of our body work together.
“From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”. Eph 4:16
If we are Christian, we don’t just go to church we are the church and this is how God equips us to fulfil our role. And it’s as we do this that we discover the real joy of being ‘in Christ’s family.’
Have you ever thought about the meaning of the term, ‘holy roller’ – it refers to Christians who have never exercised their ministry gifts. As a result they become spiritually fatter and fatter so that in the end they just have to be rolled down the aisle. (Well it’s a good story)
The word for gift is the Greek word charisma.
Charismatic Christians are grace gifted Christian – people who welcome the gifts of God.
The root of the word charisma is also the same as the word for joy. Joy and service come from the same word.
If you want to be a joyful Christian find a place of ministry.
“I came to serve not to be served. Lose your life to find it. If you want to be great learn to be the servant of all.”
So we dedicate our bodies, then we are to eliminate all external things that are not going to last for eternity so that we’ll have time for service and ministry in the Body of Christ.
Then we are to evaluate ourselves soberly – our strengths and weakness – What can I do? What can I not do?
Then cooperate with other Christians realizing that you and I are not the star of this ministry; rather we all need each other in the body of Christ. No gift is more important than the other in terms of the Body of Christ.
Next time I will look at the remaining verses under the heading of how to activate our spiritual gifts.
Father, I thank you for what we’ve considered today and the excitement we feel from understanding your word. I pray that each person who has listened to this message would find their place in the body of Christ.
We believe that you have given us all gifts. As we dedicate ourselves to you we thank you that you can use our abilities and the talents that you have given us for the greater glory of your name and for our own growth. Help us not to be just hearers of the Word but to be doers also. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.