Gifts of God’s Grace
Good Morning. Please grab your Bibles and open them to Romans chapter 12. If you do not have a Bible, please help yourself to a Bible from the back table there as our gift to you. One of our convictions here at Bangor Community Church is to get the Bible , Gods Word in to as many hands as possible.
Romans chapter 12 marks a change in tone, a change in direction of what Paul is writing in this letter. He has focused, mostly, in the first 11 chapters on why we need saving, (All have sinned, Romans 3:23), who does the saving, (Christ alone, Romans 6:23) and how we are saved, (by grace through faith, through the hearing of the Word, Romans 10:17). Now Paul shifts a bit and focuses on what we do, how we act and how we live AFTER we are saved.
I was talking to a friend this week. He was struggling with something and he asked me for some scripture. I recommended a portion of this beginning section in Romans chapter 12. He read it and made me so proud when we wrote this back to me. He said: “But then, because context, I read all of Romans 12, and that is like a step action plan for being a good Christian.” Ahhh, context. And he is right of course.
For the most part, the rest of Paul’s letter to the Romans is the practical, everyday living, how to guide for living a Christian life. But its important to remember the context as well, both immediate and big picture. As we get ready to look at Romans 12:3-8, I’m going to read it with verses 1& 2 as well, because its important to remember the immediacy of what Paul is writing. No scripture exists in a vacuum.
So without further ado, lets read the text this morning. I will be reading out of the English Standard Version, Romans 12, and reading verses 1-8. Paul writes:
I appeal to you therefore, brothers,[a] by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.[b] 2 Do not be conformed to this world,[c] but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.[d]
3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members,[e] and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[f] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
Paul lays out a lot here, but real quick, I want to emphasis that Paul doesn’t just put his letters into two parts; Theology and Application. Instead, He puts them in that order on purpose. Because one flows from another. Paul is saying that the Christian life is dependent on the great Christian doctrines.” (Morris) A changed heart, changed from stone to flesh by the Holy Spirit is the only way that we can do the things that Paul is telling us about.
John the Baptist told his followers in John 3:27, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.” Paul was quite clear earlier in Romans that this included our changed heart. This includes the renewal by the transforming of our mind mentioned in v 2. Paul is showing us in verse 3 that his entire ministry, but in and of itself, but also because of the change that had to occur in him, his entire ministry is due to Gods grace. And from that, all that he is going to be talking about going forward is due fully and solely to Gods grace.
Paul’s words to us in this letter and his others that we have collected in the Bible are given to us by the grace of God; inspired, inerrant and sufficient. And it its interesting to me that we start this section, by guidance from the Holy Spirit, where Paul, by guidance from the Holy Spirit, talks about the practical how to, he talks about things that we either should already be doing or need to start doing and we come upon this at the beginning of a new year when many people are trying to reset, where many people make resolutions, where we are focused on what we can do better in 2019 than we did in 2018.
And Paul starts that off with looking to God, his grace and his mercy. From that, he challenges us and the first one is pretty difficult. V 3, he writes to each of us, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
The focus here is that none of us are better than any of the others. Thats hard to admit sometimes. None of us are better than those sitting around us. None of us are better than those who are not here. Especially in the context of what Paul has established. We didnt and can’t do anything to merit, to warrant or to get Gods grace and mercy.
Paul established early on in chapter 1 (18-32) of Romans, what our natural sinful condition is without Christ. In chapter 2, (v 11) he says, God shows no partiality. Chapter 3 (v23) he makes it clear that ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And as we have seen emphasized over the last couple of chapters, we also see that no matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter your sins, your previous lifestyle, your ethnicity, your race, your social and economic standing, that all who repent and believe the Gospel are welcomed and adopted into Gods Family.
We also see Paul writing to the Ephesians (2:1-10) that one of the points of grace and salvation being a free gift is so that no one may boast, or using the language here in Romans, the point is so that we may not think too highly of ourselves.
And so, don’t think too highly of your self. Look with sober judgment. Think with clear thought. You are no better than I. You are no better than the person sitting next to you. You are no better than the person sitting at a bar right now, or a strip club, or even one working in them. Neither am I. I’m not better than anyone. I don’t deserve anything that God has gifted me with and none of the rest of us do either. We have all sinned, all committed cosmic treason against the universal, all-knowing, all-powerful, Holy God. None of us deserve anything other than eternity of Gods wrath being poured out on us.
But that’s not the only side to this. But think with sober judgment. What else does the Bible say about you. You are an image bearer of God. (Gen 1:27) There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Rom 8:1) You are a forgiven sinner (1 John 1:9) You are an adopted son (or daughter) of God (Galatians 2:26). You are being conformed in to the image of his Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). You are a saint (1 Corinthians 1:2) and God loved you enough that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16).
So we think with sober judgment. We are no better than each other. Do not think of yourself as higher than you ought. And to back this up and to give a practical example, Paul start talking about some of the gifts in the church. And remember, he is talking about these gifts and the body of Christ in the context of humility and thinking soberly.
There is one body of Christ. That is the Church. There are many members of that body. Each and every one of us individually who are in Christ. There is one body and many body parts, each with various and different gifts and purposes. We are different. We are not uniform. We are not Stepford. We are not all the same. Even in this room, how many different spiritual and religious backgrounds? How many different ethnicities within our blood? How many different careers and economic background and situations?
We are not all the same. God likes diversity. He is a creative God. But though we are all different in just about every way possible. We are all one under the cross of Jesus Christ. We are all different members of this one body. We are all vital to the cause of a mission of the body. None of us earned our spot, but we were all chosen, and all for different reasons and purposes.
And Paul says so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. We have a responsibility to each other. We have a responsibility to use the gifts we have. We have a responsibility to serve the church and each other. We have a responsibility not to do what someone else is gifted in and we are not. We have a responsibility to show grace to each other just as God showed grace to us.
John Wesley said that “Gifts are many, grace is one.” And the gifts that we are given and have a responsibility to use are given for the purpose of helping the body of Christ, the Church, helping it function the way God desires. And they are given and are to be used, not to promote ourselves, because again, as Paul writes in Philippians 2:3, Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
Using whatever gifts we were given by God is one of the ways that we can show love to each other and how we can show love to God. AS I was preparing this sermon, it dawned on me that the 5 Love Languages might be a good analogy here. DO you know what those are?
It was from a gentleman named Gary Chapman and he wrote a book, appropriately named, The 5 Love Languages. And what it is, essentially is that each of us naturally show love to those around us in certain ways. We tend to do it in one of the 5 ways. These 5 Love Languages are Words of Affirmation, Service, Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. Each of us is stronger at showing love to others in one of those ways. But that’s not always the same way that you receive love the best. If you, for example, receive love, if you feel loved if someone spends quality time with you, but someone else, shows love the best by giving words of affirmation, then you both need to work on that.
These things are extremely helpful if you are able to recognize which ways you show love and receive love. And it’s also helpful to get to know those around you enough to know how they show and receive love.
God has given us gifts to use to show love to each other and to God Himself. We show love to God by obeying his commands and following what he tells us. (1 John 5:3) And so, we show our love to God, in one way, by using our gifts that he gave and using them for the purposes that he gave them to us for.
And we use our gifts to love each other around us as well. And in so doing, we need to be sober-minded and clear thinking about not only our own gifts, but on what each others gifts both are and are not.
We have to be careful not to assign to much to certain people. We have to be careful not to assume that some have a certain gifting because they have another gifting. Our human brains like to catalog and categorize what we see as similar things and put them together. Lets use preaching and teaching as an example. In our human minds, those are tied together. If you have one, you will have the other. And often, if you have the gift of preaching, you will also have the gift of teaching. But not always, and not necessarily so. We have to be careful not to assume because one has one gift, that they automatically have another that is closely related. If we make those assumptions and we are wrong, we fail to love that person and we put them, not in a position to do good for God and the Body of Christ, but they will actually do harm. Be sober-minded about your own gifts and about the gifts of those around us as well.
But the other thing that we see Paul saying here, in some of his language, is that, while we are to be sober-minded about our gifts, we should grab hold of them and embrace them, dive in whole heartedly.
Generosity, Zeal, Cheerfulness. According to your faith. Now, I don’t think that term is in reference to the amount of faith that you have, as it can be read. It’s possible it could refer to the ever-growing, deepening of our faith, our continual growth whereby we grow from infants feeding on milk and we mature to feeding on meat. Thats possible, but I think it refers to just our faith. Use your gift according to you faith. If you have faith, then use the gift God gave you in his grace and mercy. If you believe, use your gifts. Thats how I read that phrase.
And we see too, that using our gifts is, in fact, one of the ways that we present ourselves as living sacrifices (12:2) We live out his will for us. This is his perfect will.
And that takes discerning, both figuring out our gifts and how to use them and figuring our Gods Will. But his will is that we figure it out and we use them.
I want you to notice that this list of gifts here are not an exhaustive list. There are numerous lists of spiritual gifts in the New Testament and none of them are exhaustive. They, just like all the rest of scripture need to be looked at in context.
Paul is laying out how we work and live together in humility, in love and in unity. And he tells us to do it all the way. The principle he is laying out here is the same as he mentions in 2 Corinthians, that God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
How you discern your gifts, how you discern how to use them, what attitude and personality you use them with, these are marks of spiritual growth and of sanctification. The point of this passage here, what Paul is writing, is not to make you ask what your spiritual gift is, though that is something that you need to be considering.
The point of this passage, instead is to pursue love, humility and unity. The point of this passage is serve others and to serve the church. The point of this passage is to serve God, with all your soul strength and mind (Luke 10:27).
It is with those motivations, those desires, it is by doing that that God will reveal your gifts and that you will find what it is that God has given you. You may or may not consciously realize what they are. Sooner or later, growing in Christ and growing in sanctification, whether you realize it or not, you will be using your gifts.
You may not know what your gifts are and still might be already using them. There was one lady I knew, she was constantly worried because she didn’t know what her gifting was. She was worried that she was not doing what God had for her. She was worried she wasnt obeying God. But she was. She was serving the church and she was decorating, she was crafting, she was making gifts, organizing the potlucks. She contributed in generosity and she served according to the faith God graced her with. You may not now what your gifts are, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t already serving in the way that God has called you.
Hers the bottom line in what Paul is writing here. Give your all to God. Serve him and his church in what ever way you can. It is your spiritual worship. Do it for the right reasons. Do it for God, giving yourself as a living sacrifice. Do it with humility and compassion, with a transformed mind. Try different methods of service, different areas. Not all will pan out, but it will help discern the will of God for you. And lastly, remember, always and foremost;
It’s all given by God, by the grace of God, by the mercies of God. It’s all from him. Not one of us, not one of our gifts are above another. And we do all that we do in pursuance of love and unity.
The thing that unites us together is the cross of Jesus Christ. Today we come together to celebrate that unity. To pursue by remembering. We remember and celebrate Christ’s death for us, that act on the cross, that act of pure love, grace and goodness. That perfect act of mercy. God holding out his hands to us, disobedient and contrary people.
We remember the sacrifice, the blood shed. We remember what that means to us, as those who have turned to follow Jesus Christ. It means that we have been declared righteous in his sight and we get to spend eternity with Jesus Christ and God the Father.
We often take this time somberly and soberly, because of what it cost Jesus, what he had to go through. We celebrate because Jesus is alive and we get to partake in eternal life with him if we chose to follow him.
Now, Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 11 some things about partaking in communion. First of all, this is for those that have made a commitment to Jesus. This is a celebration and remembrance for what he won, what he purchased when he paid the penalty for our sins and rose from the grave. If you have not made that commitment, out of respect, please pass the plate.
Paul also makes it clear that we need to be in the right state of mind, that we need to be honest with ourselves and with God and about our sins.
I greatly encourage you, as we are passing out the items for communion, take that time to talk to God. Make sure you are examining yourself and you are taking it for the right reasons. Again, please do not be afraid to pass the plate along. There will be no glances, no judgments. What is important is for each of us to make sure that we are in right standing with God.
Paul gives us a picture of Communion in 1 Corinthians chapter 11. In verses 23-25 he writes:
For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
So, what we are going to do here, is Mike and Jim are going to come up here. One will pray for the crackers, which symbolize the broken body of Jesus on the cross. They will pass them out and when we are finished we will take the cracker together as a church family.
Then, the other will pray for the juice, which symbolizes the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of sins. They will pass them out and again, we will take it together as a church family.