Orthodoxy to Orthopraxy
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being one body in Christ are individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; if ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Father, thank You for Your word. We pray, God, that You would speak to us now as we look into it, that You’d continue to give us insight and understanding, just as we even see in this passage that You would transform us by the renewing of mind, so that we, in our daily lives, wherever we go throughout this week – to work, to school, as many people are getting ready to start school again, just out in the community in our neighborhood, Lord, we pray that we would be able to display, to prove what is Your good and perfect and acceptable will. For we ask this in Jesus’ name. And all God’s people agreed, saying, “Amen.”
You can be seated.
What is the point of salvation? What is the objective in the Christian life? We have spent nearly ten months now considering the core of the doctrine of salvation in the first eleven chapters here of the book of Romans. But what is the purpose of this faith? What is the reason for it? Yes, we are saved; as the Scriptures say, Romans chapter 10 makes it very, very, clear that as we confess the Lord Jesus and believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved. But what are we saved from, and what are we saved to? Certainly we recognize that we’re saved from death and hell, and we’re saved to, ultimately, heaven, to be with the Lord, in His presence, where there is fullness of joy. But the question then remains, if that’s the whole purpose – saving us from death and hell, and unto heaven – why does God not just immediately translate us to heaven at conversion? I mean that would seem to be a very reasonable thing for people to want to believe. I mean, if we immediately believed upon the Lord and we were taken to heaven, you might think, “Gosh, that would seem like something that would compel people to want to believe in Him.” Right? So, if salvation’s purpose is not only being saved from hell and saved unto eternal life with the Lord, then what else, what is it about? What is this Christian life for? Now surely one of the reasons that God might keep us here upon the earth is to be visible evidence of His grace and His glory here upon the earth, to show forth a witness of His grace to other people. Yes, that is true. One of the reasons that the Lord keeps us here is to worship Him, to glorify Him here in this life. We certainly see that to be the case. But I suggest to you that, at the very least, one of the reasons, one of the objectives for salvation and the Christian experience of life after we are saved, brought into a relationship with God, is becoming more in this life of what God created us to be at the very beginning.
You see God had a purpose when He created; He had an objective in creation; when He created, as we read in the original account of creation there in the book of Genesis, God created man in His image, to be the image-bearers of God. And we were created to be in relationship, in fellowship with Him. It was unhindered; there was no separation there. We had total communion with God before sin entered in. Not only did we have communion with God, but there was a communion and a community with one another that was devastated by the fall, devastated by sin. We know in Genesis chapter 3, when sin entered in, that it was through that sin came that initial separation between man and his wife, for they saw their nakedness and they were ashamed, and they tried to hide that. And so sin brought in a separation; there was a devastation of that community with one another. But then we know that there was a separation between God and man, because as God enters the garden, He says, “Adam, where are you?” And so communion with God and community with one another was disrupted by the fall and by sin. But we’ve considered before that the Gospel brings the restoration of those things. The Gospel brings about the reuniting of man with God, and the rekindling of that community, that relationship within humanity, within the body of Christ. So God’s aim in salvation is not only that we would be saved from the affects of sin, that is death and ultimately hell, not only that we’d be saved unto eternal life with Him, but that here in this life now, we would experience the restoration of things being made right to what they were before the fall. That’s one of the awesome things that we experience in Christ.
But, there is a problem. We recognize there always seems to be a problem, doesn’t there? The problem is that we still exist in a fallen world. Any of you notice that we live in a fallen world? Not only that, we exist in a fallen humanity. These bodies that we have are fallen because of sin. Can you identify with that? It’s there, it’s a reality, and so, because of the affects of fall upon humanity and upon creation, there are certain hurdles, if you will, that keep us from entering into some of the enjoyment of this restoration that God has brought about. So we recognize that there are things in this world and things, sin dwelling within our body, as Paul spoke about in Romans chapter 7, that war against the work that God, by His Spirit, is seeking to do in us. Paul, in Galatians chapter 5, he identifies this. Galatians 5, verse 17, there he says, “For the flesh,” that is this fallen nature that we have, “the flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these two are contrary the one to the other, that you do not do the things that you wish.” We all have experienced this as we walk with the Lord, to a certain extent. So the question is: How then do we experience this life more abundantly that is promised to us in Christ? You remember there in John chapter 10 that Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life, and that you might have it more abundantly.” So the aim of salvation is not just salvation from hell, and salvation unto eternal life, but it is the restoration of the abundant life here and now that God intended that we would have in creation. How do we experience that?
The exhortations of Romans chapters 12 through 15 are aimed at bringing us into that experience. They are targeted at transforming us more and more in Christ-likeness, and away from the conformity of this world, the pattern of this world. What is outlined here in about the next 70 verses – in chapters 12, 13, 14, and 15, in these 70 verses – what is outlined here is antithetical, it is contrary to the natural default of our flesh. It’s contrary to what we just tend towards. Because of sin, because of the fall our flesh tends, it defaults towards being carnal. It defaults towards those things that disrupt communion with God and community with one another. So the desires of this sinful, fallen flesh will always lead us away from the enjoyment of the abundant life that God desires for us. And the exhortations of this passage, along with others in the New Testament, but specifically this passage are aimed at bringing us into the place where we experience that abundant life that God has for us. What we are exhorted to do here is opposite of what our sinful flesh desires to do, and what this world, subjugated by Satan, is seeking to cause us to walk into. The whole of creation, because of the fall, is under the sway of the wicked one. The apostle John tells us that in 1 John chapter 5, verse 19. So everything in this world is ordered in such a way, by the enemy, to distract us from those things that will bring us into the enjoyment of the abundant life that God has for us, the abundant life that Jesus brings through the Gospel. So these 70 verses are the application of salvation in Jesus Christ.
There is a turning point, a very clear turning point, at Romans chapter 12, from what we’ve previously been looking at. The first 11 chapters of the book of Romans were primarily doctrinal; they were focused on right orthodoxy, right understanding, comprehension, and belief of what we have in Christ and who we are in Christ, what Christ has done for us and what He will continue to do through us. That’s what we see theoretically or theologically in the opening chapters, the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans. But at Romans chapter 12 we turn from orthodoxy to orthopraxy – what does it look like to practice these things? What does it look like to put these things into action? Because we recognize that we can’t expect that everything will be perfectly fine just because we know it in our heads. It needs to overflow into our lives. There is no way, as we’ve already considered theologically or doctrinally in the opening chapters of the book of Romans, there is no way to bring our flesh into conformity to the Spirit. We need a total transformation; we need a complete transformation by God. And God has already given to us, in the new birth, remember He told Nicodemus there in John chapter 3, “You must be born again;” so the Christian is experienced a born-again experience by the Spirit of God. And at the new birth, God has given to us a new heart; He has completely transformed us at the heart level, and we now have the Spirit of God dwelling in us. And our spirit has been brought to life again, revived into fellowship and relationship with God again, and His Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are His children. And as His children we have received an inheritance. And Paul talks about that inheritance in the book of Ephesians. In chapter 1 he says we have received every spiritual blessing in heavenly places. God has given to us exceedingly great and precious promises and blessings in Christ as Christians. So that we would experience again this restoration of the abundant life that God created us to experience.
Now with these things, these gifts that God gives to us, and the presence of His indwelling Spirit, we need to work out our salvation. In Philippians chapter 2, verse 12, there Paul says, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” We know that we have been saved, not by any work that we have done. The first 11 chapters of Romans make that very, very clear. Ephesians chapter 2 makes that very, very clear. You are “saved by grace through faith, that not of yourself; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” So we’re saved by His good works not ours, but now that we have been saved, we’re saved unto good works wherein we work out what salvation looks like. What does it mean to actually be saved right here and now? You see salvation in Christ is not just hopefully looking forward to the day when we’re out of here. The abundant life began when you put your faith in Christ. And yet we recognize that there are many people who are not experiencing the abundant life. They’re hoping for, they’re looking forward to the day when they’re in the presence of God, in His presence where there is “fullness of joy, at His right hand pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16 says that in verse 11. They’re looking forward to that, but they’re not experiencing the abundant life here and now. They know about it!! They’ve studied the text!! They’ve looked at Romans chapters 1 through 11. They know their position in Christ. But they’re not experiencing the joy of that abundant life. Because, I suggest to you, we need to move from knowing about these things to these things becoming a part of who we are – being lived out in our lives. And the question always is: Well how does that happen? Well I believe that Paul, in this section of Scripture, which unfortunately in our day is sometimes overlooked because we live in a culture that really likes good understanding, good doctrinal orthodoxy and clarity. So people spend a lot of time focusing on the first 11 chapters of the book of Romans, but they rarely move into the working of this out. What does it practically look like? How do we see this happen?
Well look at verse 1 of Romans chapter 12 with me. Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” How do we work out our salvation? If you’re taking notes, the first thing I’d like you to write down is just one word, the word submission, submission. How do we work out our salvation? Submission. We see this idea of submission or yielding here in verse 1 of Romans chapter 12, and I believe that it is the first step to getting our lives in the direction of walking into this abundant life. Now notice also here in verse 1 the word “therefore;” you might want to highlight it in your Bible. “I beseech you therefore.” What that word “therefore” is pointing back to is everything that has previously been said in the book of Romans – Romans chapters 1 through 11. Everything that is now going to go forward in Romans chapters 12, 13, 14, and 15 is in response to the doctrine that is presented in Romans chapters 1 through 11. Therefore in light of all that has already been said, what is our response? What is our response to the work that Jesus did demonstrating God’s love for us in His death on the cross? What is our response to the fact that we have been crucified with Him, we’ve been buried with Him in baptism, and we rise and walk in newness of life? What is our response to knowing these truths?
Well Paul urges us, in response to all that we know, he urges us to offer ourselves to God. He says by God’s strengthening mercy, that we would offer ourselves to God sacrificially. Now he tells us here that this is by God’s strength, by God’s power. He says, “by the mercies of God” that you would do this. You see God recognizes that you and I, we are utterly unable, in and of our own strength, to do these things that he calls us to do. Read the Sermon on the Mount, and then try to make that happen in your life apart from the grace of God working it out in your life. It’s impossible to live that way without His power enabling us to do so. Now the Bible makes very, very clear that God has given us His Spirit indwelling us to empower us to do just those things. So we do have power from on high to enable us to do these things, but we actually practically have to apply them; we actually have to do something. We cannot expect that it just going to [snap fingers] one day happen – we wake up and everything’s perfect. I don’t know, maybe you’ve thought that before, and been dashed upon the rocks of reality. It doesn’t happen that way. So Paul is urging us here to do something. And God knows that it is something that we cannot, in our own strength, do, that’s why He has given us mercy to enable us to do this by His Spirit. “He knows our frame,” says the Psalmist, in Psalm 103. God knows our frame, that we are dust. He pities us as a father pities his children. That word “pity,” it’s connected to the idea of mercy. He’s merciful towards us because He knows us like we know our own children. Thank God for His mercy. God deals with us not according to our sinfulness, but according to His mercy and His grace.
But what exactly is it that Paul is urging us to do? Well he says here you are to present or to yield or to submit this body, this fallen, carnal humanity; he says you are to submit it and yield it to God sacrificially – as living sacrifices. We’re still alive, but we are dead to our natural desires. We’re reckoning those things dead, and we’re offering what we have to Him – “God, it’s Yours, use me as You will.” This is the first step that Paul says we need to engage in if we’re to experience the abundance of life that God has for us. “I urge you,” “I beg you” – Paul’s wording here is so passionate, pleading. He’s saying, “I beg that you would do this!!” Why? Because Paul knew this was the only way for those, his readers, and us now today, looking at these things, to experience what it is that God has for us. By God’s mercy, we ought to yield these bodies to God for His service, as holy instruments for His service.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies, living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” Now in another English translation of the Bible, those words – “reasonable service” – it’s rendered – “your only right response.” The only right response is to offer ourselves to God as holy and acceptable instruments for His service. Now when we use the word holy, a lot of times our brains have a hard time with that. The reason being is that this word holy is a Greek word, hagios, and it’s translated 161 times in the New Testament as holy, but it’s translated 61 times as saints. And we have, in our minds, an idea of what it means to be holy and what it means to be a saint, and we think that the only way that you can be called holy or be called a saint is that you first have lived a perfectly holy life and then you’re declared holy, or you’ve lived a certain way and then now at the end you’re declared a saint. After you’ve died there’s a council that gets together and says “that person was a saint based on this and this and this that they did.” But what the Scriptures reveal is that based on the work that God has done in us and for us through Jesus Christ, the work that Jesus did on the cross, He has declared you and I to be holy, He has called us saints. Therefore what Paul is calling us to here in this passage is that because we are holy, we ought to live as though we were. Because we have been declared saints, we ought to live as saints, live in such a way that shows forth what it means to be a holy saint of God. The idea of being holy is to be completely set apart, consecrated for His use only. So he says, “offer yourselves as living sacrifices.” Although this old carnal body is still alive, it’s not engaged in the things of this world because it has been completely set apart for God.
Now we understand the idea of consecrated things very, very easily. We have a little dog at home, his name is Walter; my wife named him Walter. I like Wally, but we call him Walter, especially when you’re yelling at him in the backyard – “WALTER STOP IT!!!” But Walter, he has his dish. It’s consecrated, it’s holy unto Walter. We don’t use that dish for anything else but Walter. It’s his dish; it’s holy to him. We all understand the idea of consecrated things when we boil it down to something like that. So it’s just simply consecrated for him only. And Paul says you’re to offer your bodies as holy, consecrated, living sacrifices to God.
So how do we experience this abundant life that’s promised to us in Christ? Number one: submission; number two: renunciation. Look at verse 2, number two: renunciation, the first part of verse 2: “And do not be conformed to this world.” Do not be conformed to this world. The apostle John, in 1 John chapter 2, verse 16, he tells us that all that is in the world is the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, and this world is passing away. This world will one day fade away, it will one day burn up. It’s all going to burn anyway. And so Paul says here, “Do not be conformed to the this world.” The world is passing away; the desires, the lusts for the things of this world will pass away with it. Knowing that this is true, the Christian, the person who has received grace for salvation, they’ve been saved from hell and saved unto eternal life with God in His presence, that person ought to now renounce and abandon and relinquish all claim to this world. This world should not be forefront in the expectation of the Christian. Instead, their desire should be for the Lord. This world has a pattern, it has a current, a flow; all of it, as I’ve already said, is under the sway of the wicked one. So if you go after the things of this world, it will press you into its mold, it will conform you to be like its things. So Paul says here, I am exhorting you, I’m calling you to renounce all claim to this world. If we are to experience this abundant life that is promised to us in Christ, number one: we need to submit to God’s work in one lives, submit ourselves to Him for His glory, wholly consecrated to Him. And then we need to renounce any claim to this world, knowing that this is going to pass away. If you invest everything you have in something that you know for an absolute fact it’s going to fail, you’re a fool. If you knew that you might be able to make a quick buck, but Bernie Madoff was going to go away to prison and you’d lose everything, it would be stupid to invest in that. And if we know that this world is passing away and all the desire of it, to fully have our hearts invested in this life, to lay claim to this world is absolute absurdity.
And so Paul says we submit ourselves to God, we renounce and relinquish all claim to this world, thirdly: transformation – submission, renunciation, transformation. The middle of verse 2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” This transformation that Paul speaks about here, it begins, as he talks about it, in the mind – “be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” As I’ve already said, the Christian, the person who’s been born again, has received a new heart from God, they have the indwelling Spirit of God within them, and Paul says now, as a Christian, your mind is to be transformed. That word transformed there is the Greek word metamorphoō; it’s where we get our word metamorphosis. The same spirit of grace that God has given to us, brings about a transformation in the life of the believer. But this transformation, it doesn’t happen by default. There’s a way in which we actually active in yielding ourselves, submitting ourselves to Him, relinquishing all claim to this world, and then allowing Him to transform us by the renewing of our minds. And there is a way in which the logos of God – remember when we read in John chapter 1: “In the beginning was the Word,” the logos. And then in chapter 1, verse 14 of the Gospel of John, it says, “The” logos, “the Word [of God] became flesh and dwelt among us.” So Jesus is the logos of God, He is the Word of God. And He, by His presence, by His Word, even His written and revealed truth, He transforms our minds. The same God who gave us a new heart at the new birth wants to transform our minds, our pattern of thinking, so that – notice this mind change results in something. “That you would be transformed by the renewing of your minds, [so that] you may prove,” that is: you may work out in your active life, “what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” If we are to do those things that are pleasing to God and ultimately result in our joy, ultimately result in us experiencing the abundant life that God has given to us, we need to first submit ourselves, yield ourselves to God, we need to relinquish all claim to this world, and then we need to allow our minds, by His grace, by His word, by Christ’s work in us, we need to allow our minds to be changed, and then it affects the way that we live. Then we begin to live out, work out, prove and display what is good, what is acceptable, and what is perfect before God. We begin to walk in His will.
You know there’s a lot of people who ask that question: What is God’s will for my life? And the Bible gives us some good instruction about “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 talks about some of that. There’s other places in the New Testament where it’s explicitly stated what God’s will is. But one of the things, one of the truths we see in this passage is that as we submit ourselves to God, as we renounce the things of this world – not being conformed to this world – as He begins to transform our minds by His word, then we walk in His will, fulfilling His will, experiencing His will. If you want to know what the will of God looks like, it is that which is on display in the life of an individual who is endeavoring, by God’s grace, to live out those things that are good and acceptable to Him.
Well Paul continues, verse 3: “For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” Now the book of Romans has made very, very clear that we cannot, by our own strength, make ourselves acceptable to God outside of God’s grace given to us. It’s impossible. And Paul, here in Romans chapter 12, verse 3, he reminds us of this. Why? He wants us to have a clear thinking. He does not want us to be arrogant and high-minded of ourselves, having been saved, that we did this ourselves – we made it happen. “I’m pretty ingenious, I did some amazing things, and I got myself here. I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps.” I have no idea what that means, but it’s an American idiom, right? So we have this mindset that we did this. And it’s our carnal flesh, it’s that that needs to be laid down, it’s that that needs to be crucified, that thinks that we are where we are in relationship with God – we’re not going to hell, we are going to heaven – because of something that we did, or because of something that was intrinsically in us. We really want to think that. We really want to think that when God saved us, man, He got a really righteous deal. [laughter] The reality is that we’re nothing. Now, we’re not to walk around with some sort of spiritual inferiority complex, always doing the Eeyore thing – “Ah, I’m just terrible, I’m horrible.” No, listen, God saved us to use us for His glory, that we would be vessels of honor, that we would be earthen vessels containing glorious riches of who He is – His grace. So we have value because He has ascribed value to us; we have dignity because He has dignified us. But apart from Him, we are nothing. Paul makes very, very clear here in verse 3; he wants us to claim that and recognize that – “I say, through the grace that is given to me, to everyone who is among you, don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but think soberly, as God has dealt to everyone a measure of faith.” You see sometimes we may look at another person in our family, or another person in our workplace, or in our neighborhood who has not accepted God’s grace, who is not saved, and we might wrongly begin to assume, “Well, you know, obviously God doesn’t love them like He loves me.” No, “God has dealt to everyone a measure of faith,” and by God’s grace, His word caused that faith in you to germinate into saving faith. And it’s been by His grace that He’s brought us into this great relationship with Him. Paul said in 1 Corinthians chapter 15, verse 10: “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace towards me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” Paul says “I’m nothing if it is not for God’s grace, and when He gave me His grace, it was not in vain, because when He gave me His grace, it compelled me to serve Him. His grace stirred me up to serve Him.” “I labored more abundantly than they all.”
Salvation from hell unto eternal life, sanctification here and now are God’s gracious work in us by faith, therefore we cannot think highly of ourselves. We ought to think soberly, recognizing that all the good that we will ever do in this life for the name of Christ, for the glory of God, all the work that we will ever do is according to His grace. How do we know that? Look at verse 4: “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; [or] he who teaches, in teaching; [or] he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” How do we see God’s grace actively at work in sanctification right here and right now? God has given to everyone of us, Paul says, gifts, according to His grace. How do we know that God is still graciously working in our lives to bring us into the experience of this abundant life? He has given us gifts by His Spirit to enable us to walk in those things that He’s called us to do. And then Paul gives us a list here of seven gifts. This is not comprehensive, but it is a list. There are several lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament; this is just one of several. There’s another one in 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14, another one in Ephesians chapter 4. If you really want to go in depth on studying what the gifts of the Spirit are, I would recommend to you that you go to our website, and all the audio from our teaching series that we did on the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians is there – 17 weeks, it’s a little bit long – of going through the gifts, comprehensive study on it. Be that as it may, we need to recognize that God, as a work of His grace in our lives to enable now to work out our salvation, to experience the abundant life that He’s called us to, He’s given us enabling power by His Spirit, by these gifts. Now I know in all the things that I’m saying you may say, “Well it seems like God is doing all of this, God has given us this by His grace, God has saved us, God continues to enable us by His saving grace to work these things out. What part do we play?” I’m telling you right now we play a huge part. We need to submit ourselves to Him. We need to relinquish all claim to this world. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds, and then we need to actively engage in using the gifts that God has given to us, or else we will not experience that abundant life. The Christian will never experience here and now the abundant life that God has for them if they are not using the gifts that He has given to them for His glory. If you just casually go to church on a Sunday morning and that’s all you ever do in your Christian faith, you will not experience this abundant life. You won’t, if you’re not actively using the gifts that He has given to you.
A spiritual gift is a God-given capacity, through which the Holy Spirit of God supernaturally ministers to the body. It is an ability that the Spirit gives to us to express our faith in order to strengthen another person’s faith. The gifts that God gives to us are for the building up and edification of the body, and through that we, as the body, experience the abundant life individually that God desires for us. We are all members of the body of Christ, and we are members in particular, we’re individual members, and God has given to each one of us a different gifting, a different function within the body. And as we function in that way, we experience the abundant life.
Well Paul talks about seven gifts, and we’re not going to go into them in depth because we don’t have a lot of time. But I just want to look at them briefly. The first one he says is prophesy. Now I know, immediately when we hear the word prophesy… And if you don’t know what gifts that you have, you know one of the best ways to figure out some of your gifts is to step out by faith and begin to serve the Lord and see how He has enabled you to serve Him. But we have on our website a Spiritual Gifts Test; we’ve talked about this before. You can go to www.ccesco.com and just watch the little scrolling pictures on the front page, and one of them says Spiritual Gifts Test. And you know, these things might be helpful, but the problem with those is that sometimes we get led into things thinking, “Well I’m a prophet!” I’ve had several people, since we put that thing on our website, come to me and go, “I’m a prophet.”
And I go, “Really!! I’m a little scared.” [laughter]
When we read about prophecy in the Scriptures, the gift of prophecy, our minds go to people, you know, walking around in, you know, like camel’s hair robes and, like eating locusts, and, you know, “Thus saith the Lord,” speaking in King James English, and all this forthtelling about future events. Listen, yes, there is an aspect of prophecy that is foretelling. But the reality is there’s a lot that has to do with prophecy that is just declaring forth God’s word to God’s people. It’s just forthtelling God’s specific word for a specific group of people. Then he says ministry. The word ministry here is the very same word from which we get the Greek word deacon, diakonos, we get the English word deacon – the idea of a servant. There are people who are gifted by God, they are empowered by Him to be servants. Now the reality is every Christian is called to serve God in some capacity. But there are some people who are uniquely gifted by God and called to serve in specific areas as servants of the Lord.
Then he says teaching, the ability to clearly explain and effectively apply God’s truth of His word for others to be able to learn it. There are people that are gifted as teachers from God, to speak forth His word. Now every single one of us, as Christians, we’re given opportunities from time to time to instruct and to teach people who don’t know the things of God, about the things of God. But there are some people who are uniquely called and gifted by God to be teachers.
Then exhortation – the ability to motivate others to respond by providing those timely words of counsel. The idea of an exhorter here, it’s the Greek word parakaleo, it means to come alongside with a call. It’s the idea of the personal trainer. Anyone ever had a personal trainer before? Nobody, wow, awesome. Anyways, a coach. How many of you played sports in high school? Okay. The coach is the person who says, “You can do ten more!! Come on!!” Even though you think you can’t do any more. It’s the person who comes alongside and says, “Come on, you can do this.”
Leadership – this gift of leadership; the ability to discern God’s purpose for a group and to set and communicate appropriate goals to motivate others together to fulfill those for the service of God. There are people that are called and gifted by God towards leadership.
This gift of mercy – the ability to deeply empathize and engage compassionately with someone who’s going through a difficult time. All of us are called to be merciful to people, but there are some people within the body of Christ who uniquely have this gift of mercy.
The gift of giving. Now I realize I’ve out of placed this one, the gift of giving, and I’m going to step maybe outside of the text here for a moment and share about this. Because it’s appropriate for where we, as a church, are at this moment. The gift of giving – the reality is that every single person in the body of Christ is called to give. We’re called to be involved in the work that God has called us as the church to accomplish in this world. And giving can involve giving of our time, our talents, and our treasure. Yes, our treasure is a part of that; that’s where our minds generally go. But sometimes our time and our talents are equally as important as it relates to giving. And Paul says here the one who has this gift of giving, they should use that, he should use it liberally, should give in abundance.
Now I shared this a few months ago, and it’s appropriate where we’re at, to share it again. The work of the ministry of Cross Connection Escondido only happens because of what you, as the body of Christ, give to that work. And at the end of last year, we shared some of the great things that God did through the church giving as we came into 2013, as we were ending 2012. And I don’t know what it is, it’s an interesting concept, but from December to January the giving dropped by 50%. And I had a few people come and talk with me after I shared the last time, and they said, “You know at the end of the year when you shared how good the church was doing, we thought, ‘Well you don’t need what we’re giving, we’ll just divert our giving.’” I don’t know how that happens, but it happened. Now we’re not 50% off at this point, but at this point in the year, we’re more than 10% off of our budget goals. So we’ve reduced our budget significantly. We’re reducing our spending; we’re cutting costs in every way that we can. But we’re at a point where we just have to say, “Listen, church, if you’re a part of this church, you need to give to the work of this ministry.” Now I know there’s some people here right now, you’re going, “I don’t like when people talk about this!” I understand that. That might be conviction; that might be. And I don’t like to talk about this kind of stuff. But the reality is that this ministry only happens based on how we’re giving to this work. Now, understand, as we go through the rest of the year, some of the things that we’re going to be doing, we’re going to need you to prayerfully consider to be a part of that financially, over and above your regular giving to the church, your regular tithe. We are going to be receiving a few special offerings as we go through the rest of this year. Because you know in October we normally do our Harvest Celebration, and that’s a big event, and we can’t pay for it in our budget anymore. And so we’re going to ask the church in October to give a special offering to that, aside from the candy that everybody gives. And you guys bless us with candy more than we really should have, but we’re going to be receiving a special offering for the Harvest Celebration. And then if you go and look through our Children’s Ministry building, you look through our facility here, some of the stuff’s kind of breaking down, it’s more than 20 years old, and there’s some improvements we need to do on our facility. So we’re going to be receiving some special offerings, and I just want to say that just so you know that there are going to be some times when we’re going to be asking you as the church to be involved in that. I want you now to begin to pray about that so that we can see how God would work. Now ultimately, God provides for all of our needs by His riches. Amen? But He’s called us to be a part of this body, and we use our gifts in such a way to bless the body, to build up the body of Christ.
One last verse and we’ll close – 1 Peter chapter 4, the apostle Peter says, “As each one [in the body] has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” God has given us great grace. Don’t you think so? Great grace. As good stewards, faithful stewards, the kind of servants or stewards whom God says to us, when we come into His kingdom, “Well done my good and faithful servant, steward.” As good stewards, use the gifts that God has given to you for the building up of the body. So learn what those gifts are. Step out into the work to experience God’s grace working through you to serve, and then use those things as each one has received a gift, so minister it to one another for the building up of the body of Christ. Now, I have to say, this church, it amazes me by the way that this church serves, by the way that you’re engaged in the work here in our community, here at this facility, to the uttermost parts, in your workplace, because serving God doesn’t happen only at church events. But in your workplace, in your neighborhood, on the ball field, wherever you are, that’s where ministry is happening. And I hear and see God doing amazing things through this body. It blesses me to be a part of this body. And it’s very, very clear the abundant life is lived as we are using what God has given to us as good stewards of His grace ministering to other people. And may we be stirred up to do that even more in the next seasons that God brings us into. Amen?