Practical Christian Living, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

This morning we are going to continue in our study of Romans 12.  Paul has presented deep theology in the first 11 chapters, and now he is applying these theological truths to practical, everyday living.  In view of God’s mercies to man in Jesus Christ who, being God in human flesh, lived a sinless life, and willingly laid down His life on the cross as the substitute sacrifice in atoning for our sins, then rose again from the dead on the third day proving Himself and His promises of salvation from sin for those who believe in Him to be true, there should be a corresponding response by those who profess such faith.

They are to present themselves

As living and holy sacrifices

Which are acceptable to God.  

This is the reasonable response

Of true worship of God.  

Such a person is then changed

Over time to be a reflection

Of Jesus as they are transformed

By the renewing of their minds.

We have already seen in verses 3-8 that Paul has explained that the Christian, as a living sacrifice, is to be humble and not think more highly of themselves than they ought as part of the body of Christ.  Every believer is gifted by God for service, and every gift and ministry are needed for the body to mature, so all basis of pride is removed since the goal is for the common good of the whole body.  Our lives revolve around serving the Lord for the sake of His kingdom, not our own.

We have also already seen that in

Being a living and holy sacrifice

Acceptable to the Lord,

The Christian is to be growing

In their love for God, other believers, and all people.

This love is agape, the love marked by

Its sacrificial nature in giving of itself

For the benefit of another and based in

Conscious choice instead of fleeting emotions.

It is never a love that is feigned, so it is without hypocrisy.  It reflects God’s character and nature, and so it abhors what is evil while it clings to what is good.  It finds what is not godly to be detestable and hated so there is a strong aversion to such things.  At the same time, it is attracted to and holds tightly to what is godly.

Yesterday we saw that beyond this general duty, the Christian has more specific duties in relationship to other believers.  There is to be a brotherly love among believers because we are all part of the family of God.  We should have the same commitment to one another that we should for our siblings.  This kind of love is demonstrated in giving preference in honor to one another.  We consider the other more important than ourselves.  We are also to step out in leading the way in showing such respect and honor.  We seek to initiate instead of just respond.

We also looked at verse 11 last week which begins the sequence of duties listed in verse 11-13 that we will continue looking at today.  Diligence is the primary duty listed here under which Paul marks out seven more specific areas in which our being living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God are to be practically demonstrated.

As we saw in yesterday’s blog, the phrase “diligence without slothfulness” carries the idea that we are . . .

To be ready to quickly respond

In earnestness to accomplish,

Promote, or strive after whatever

Is needful in our relationships with others.

A person who is slothful is the opposite.  They hesitant and delay in their response.  Because the Spirit of God has touched our lives, we are zealous in our own spirit to respond to God’s Spirit in our relationships with others.

We seek to serve one another in the Lord.  

That is quite a thought all in itself –

Not only does the holy

Creator of the universe

Wants us to serve Him,

But that we can do so

In our relationships with

One another by letting

Him work through us.

Paul described it this way in Galatians 2:20 saying, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”  Paul viewed his own life as one in which he had died and Jesus Christ was now living through him.  As living sacrifices, we are to do the same.  

This morning we will continue on with verse 12 and look at two more of the specific areas in which we are to practically demonstrate our being living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God.  In each of these we are to be diligent to act and respond.

Rejoicing In Hope.

Hope is one of the great blessings of being a Christian.  Tragically, Christians can get overwhelmed by the problems of life, and in losing their focus, they can become discouraged and even seriously depressed.  The solution to this is to go back to the hope we have in Jesus Christ.

The first thing we need to understand about this hope is that it is not a “wish.”  It is not something we would like to happen, but which is a great unknown if it actually will.

Biblical hope

Is not based in

Speculation, dreams,

Or even potential.  

It is based in absolutes

And for that reason

Biblical hope is

A confident assurance

Of what will occur

In the future. 

Our hope in Jesus Christ

For both the present

And the future

Is a certainty.

That is why we are to be “in hope rejoicing.”  Again, this is something we are to be diligent about and not slothful.

What is the basis of this hope and why should we rejoice in it?  

The basis of our hopes

Are the promises of God.  

The reason we should

Rejoice in it is

Because His promises

Are the expressions

Of His love,

And they all will

Come true because

They are based in

God’s divine power.

2 Peter 1:2-4 describes this truth, “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, in order that by them you might become partakers of [the] divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”

Remember too that this section of Romans is the application of a proper response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  As those who have turned from sin to the savior, we have been forgiven and promised a place in heaven with Christ. In the present, we have been promised that God will use our lives to glorify Himself, which is the purpose of our existence, and even more so since we are to be presenting our bodies as living and holy sacrifices acceptable to God.

What are some of these precious and magnificent promises that should cause us to rejoice?

Here are a few . . .

Forgiveness Of Sins.

Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  1 John 1:9 declares, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  The Christian has been promised that their sins are forgiven because of their redemption in Christ.

Freedom From God’s Condemnation.

Romans 8:1-2 states, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.”  John 3:17-18 says, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him.  He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  Believers have been promised that they will stand before God without fear of His condemnation because Jesus was condemned in our place.  

Eternal Life.

John 5:24 says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.”  John 10:27-28 states, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand.”  The eternal life spoken of here is not length of life, for even the wicked will exist throughout eternity in Hell (Matthew 25:41, 46; Revelation 21:11-15).  Eternal life is the quality of life of being in proper relationship with God.  That is the meaning of Jesus’ statement in John 10:10 that He, “Came that they might have life, and might have it abundantly.”

A Home In Heaven.

The eternal destiny of those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ is secure.  John 14:2-3 says, “In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

Christ’s Return For Us.

Heaven is not a place that people get to on their own, but one in which our Savior returns for us and takes us there.  In addition to John 14:3 the Bible also declares in Philippians 3:20-21, “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.”

Comfort At Death.

For the Christian, to be “absent from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). We comfort one another with that hope and that we will meet those who have preceded us (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).  For the Christian, “to live is Christ, to die is gain (Philippians 1:21ff).  We have gained victory over our enemy, death, through Jesus Christ who conquered it.  Though each of us will have to go through physical death if the Lord does not return prior to that event, we will not experience spiritual death (the second death – Revelation 20), and physical death cannot keep us.  We will be resurrected.

New, Glorified Bodies.

One of the great things about God’s promises of a future in heaven with Him is that we will also have new bodies that will not be subject to the corruption of our present physical bodies. 1 Corinthians 15:51-53 declares, “Behold, I tell you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed.  For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”

Intercession By Jesus And The Spirit.

God has also given us wonderful promises that apply to our present lives including intercession by both Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  Romans 8:26 says, “And in the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”  Hebrews 7:25 states, “Hence, also, He [Jesus] is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.”

Jesus’ Presence Now And Forever.

Not only does Jesus presently intercede with the Father on our behalf, but He is also present with us.  Matthew 28:20 says, “. . . and low, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”  Hebrews 13:5 states, “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.”

The Spirit’s Indwelling.

We describe the Holy Spirit’s relationship to us in the present as His indwelling us.  The idea here is that He is within you instead of standing next to you.  John 14:16 says, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be in you.”  Galatians 4:6 sates, “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Adoption Into God’s Family.

As Galatians 4:6 mentions, we can approach God as His children crying out, ‘Abba! Father!’  We can do this because God adopts the Christian as His child.  Romans 8:14-17 declares, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.  For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’  The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ . . .”  This truth made John marvel in 1 John 3:1, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God; and such we are.”  

Access To God The Father.

Our adoption into God’s family also allows us direct access to the Father.  Most religions restrict personal access to God and make you go through a priest of some type.  Biblical Christianity believes what God has said Himself about who can approach Him.  That is why we can follow Jesus’ instructions and address God directly as “Our Father, who art in heaven.”  Ephesians 2:18-19 tells us “For through Him [Jesus] we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.” Hebrews 4:16 says, “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

His Provision For Everything Needed In This Life.

God’s promises to us also take care of the common needs of everyday life in the present.  Matthew 6:33 states, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you.”  What things?  All that is needed for daily life including food, drink, and clothing.  God makes these promises because He wants our minds to be focused on Him and not the common things of life. Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?”  Philippians 4:19 states, “And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 9:6-12 a further reason that God provides for all our material needs, “Now this I say, he who sows sparingly shall also reap sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully.  Let each one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver.  And God is able to make all grace abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed; as it is written, ‘He scattered abroad, he gave to the poor, His righteousness abides forever.’ Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food, will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only fully supplying the needs of the saints, but is also overflowing through many thanksgivings to God.”  God’s provision for us allows for us to be the means by which He will meet the needs of others.

Emotional Stability.

 God’s promises also encompass our emotional needs.  We can be at peace when non-Christians are in turmoil.  Since God has promised to meet our physical needs as we seek first His kingdom and righteousness, we do not need to worry about such things. But we do not need to be anxious about anything else either because we can present the need to God and rest in His peace.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Or as 1 Peter 5:7 says, “You can cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

The Bible also says in 1 Corinthians 1:3-4 that God is, “The Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”  Whatever turmoil may come into our lives, God can meet our emotional needs.

Purpose In Life.

God’s promises also remove the futility and vanity of life.  Ecclesiastes expounds on the principle that anything man might achieve in life is ultimately futile if it done apart from God.  Amass wealth or power and you must leave it to someone who will come after you, and they may be a fool who will squander it.  Gain fame, and it also fades away.  As the years go by, you are forgotten. Seek pleasure, and you will always be seeking, because pleasure is always fleeting.  It never lasts. But God’s promises give the Christian an eternal purpose for their lives.

As already pointed out, the Christian is brought into a relationship that will last for eternity.  The believer was chosen by God in Christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him (Ephesians 1:4).  He or she is a “vessel of mercy” which God has “prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23), and so will be changed into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29), and serve God forever.  In the present, the believer is to do the good works that God has prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10), and they are to do them in such a way that men will see them and glorify God (Matthew 5:16).  God choose those who are saved to be His own people who would proclaim His excellencies (1 Peter 2:9).  Jesus has commissioned us to go into all the world and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey whatsoever things He has commanded (Matthew 29:19,20).  That includes raising our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).

Triumph In Trials.

God also makes promises related to the trials that we face in life.  Jesus said in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”  Trials are just part of life in a sin fallen world, but the Christian has hope in the midst of them because Jesus has overcome the sin of this world.  God’s general promise in Romans 8:28 is that He, “Causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to [His] purpose.”  But God also specifically tells us that the trials that bring about the testing of our faith will produce endurance and that in turn will result in maturity (James 1:2-4).  God promises to chasten the son whom He loves, so the trials might also be the demonstration of that love in correcting us. (Hebrews 12:5-11).  In Romans 5:3-8 Paul said that we could, “Exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”  He went on to point out in verse 8 that, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”

Hope does not fail and it is the basis for rejoicing because it is based in the very character of God which cannot fail.  God’s love extends His grace and mercy to us granting us forgiveness of our sins in Jesus Christ and bringing us into a personal relationship with Him.  He extends to us wonderful and precious promises that cannot fail because God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent.  Nothing can thwart any of His promises.

This hope also becomes the basis for what Paul says in the second phrase of Romans 12:12.  In tribulation, the Christian is enduring.

Enduring In Tribulation.

Bad things do happen to believers.  Christians can find themselves in crises.  Those devoted to God will face discouragement.  But as has already been pointed out, none of these things should remove our hope in Christ.  We can rejoice in the midst of them.

The word for “tribulation,” is the same word as used in John 116:33 and Romans 5:3 which we have already looked at.  It is also often translated as “affliction.”  The word here for “enduring,” means to “abide under” and hence to “endure,” “put up with,” “stand
firm,” “persevere.”

The sense of our enduring in tribulation is the same as Jesus as he faced the cross. Hebrews 12:2-3 says that, “For the joy set before Him [Jesus] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  If we keep our focus correct, we can endure current tribulations because we have a hope of something better in the future that will result from it.  2 Corinthians reveals that Paul had lived through some very nasty times including being beaten, lashed, struck with rods, imprisoned, went hungry, thirsty, and had sleepless nights.  He was also shipwrecked and endured an untold number of other dangers and hardships in his travels (2 Corinthians 11;23ff).  Paul’s own comment on these trials in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 is “Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal.”

Life can be tough for Christians, and there are things that arise in our lives that can be very difficult.  If we do not keep our focus correct, we can become discouraged or even depressed.  It can be enough to drive you to your knees – no wonder the next phrase in Paul’s list is “devoted to prayer.”  We will examine that tomorrow.

We do not have to succumb to the pressures around us.  We do not have to become discouraged or depressed.  We have the promises of God that give us ongoing hope regardless of the circumstances.  We can endure the afflictions of the moment in view of what God will bring about in the future and what He is doing in the present.  But to do that you must keep your perspective correct.

Life is not about your pleasure or comfort.  

It is not about your wealth or fame.  

It really is not about you at all.

It is about the holy God who created us and saved us for Himself
despite our rebellion against Him.  Those who profess to be Christians need to respond to God’s mercy toward them by presenting themselves as living and holy sacrifices that are acceptable to God.  They need to continue to resist the pressures of the world and be transformed by the renewing of their minds.

When your mind is set on things above,

Instead of the things of this earth,

You will be able to live

In godly wisdom

In a godly manner.

But what about the times when you are overwhelmed and become discouraged or depressed?  That is when you are in the greatest need of the rest of the body of Christ using their gifts properly to help you along.  The problem is that this is also the time when you least want to be around other people.  There is much that you can do to alleviate discouragement and depression simply by doing what is right before God regardless of your feelings at the moment.  But at the same time, you should not have to endure it all alone.

There is a responsibility that the rest of the Body of Christ has towards those who are down, but before we can reach out to them we must first remember our own frailty.  We are not to judge, condemn or look down on those who struggle as if some how we are superior because we are not currently struggling.  Each of us has our own weaknesses and we are to treat others the way we would want to be treated ourselves.  In addition, if one part of the body suffers, then we are all suffering (1 Corinthians 12:26).  We are to humbly seek to help others.  Yes, we need to remind them that as Christians we are living sacrifices whose lives are to revolve around God’s will and not our own desires. But we are also to encourage them with all the wonderful aspects of God’s love that cause us to rejoice in His care for us.  We are to lift them up and encourage them with the wonderful promises God has made to us.  We are to help one another rejoice in hope, and persevere in tribulation.

Are you down cast, discouraged, or depressed?  Then turn your focus once again to our loving Lord and rejoice in the hope we have in Him for both eternity and the present. Jeremiah sat looking over the ruins of Jerusalem, yet amid the destruction he still recognized his hope in the Lord and said in Lamentations 3:22-25, “The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.’

Press on in the midst of the current afflictions knowing that in due time, we will reap if we do not give up (1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:10).  Do you see people who are struggling?  Don’t ignore them.  They need help.  Step out to encourage the fainthearted and help the weak (1 Thessalonians 5:14).  It is not your job to fix them, but it is your job to make yourself available and useful to the Lord as He works in their lives, possibly through you.  They might need a shoulder to cry on and their tears wiped away. All of us do at times.  They will need others to patiently point them back to our hope in Christ so that they might once again rejoice.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Practical Christian Living, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

There are many kinds of friendship ranging from casual acquaintances to best friends.  But what is the nature of the love in friendship that God desires for us to have for one another?  Perhaps the following story of two men in WW I gives us an idea of it.

Two friends had enlisted in the Army together.  They trained together, were shipped overseas together, and fought side-by-side in the trenches.  During an attack, one of the men was critically wounded and unable to crawl back to his foxhole.  The field was filled with barbed wire obstacles and was under deadly enemy crossfire.  It would be suicide to try to reach him.  Yet, his friend decided to try, but before he could get out of his own trench, he sergeant pulled him back in side and order him not to go.  “It’s too late,” he said, “You can’t do him any good, and you’ll only get yourself killed.”  A few minutes later, when the Sergeant had turned his back, the man instantly climbed out of the trench and went after his friend.  A few minutes later he staggered back, mortally wounded, with his friend, now dead, in his arms.  The sergeant was both angry and deeply moved.  “What a waste,” he blurted out, “He’s dead and you’re dying.  It just wasn’t worth it.”  With almost his last breath, the dying man replied, “Oh, yes, it was, Sarge.  When I got to him, the only thing he said was, ‘I knew you’d come, Jim!’”  

Two passages that are probably familiar to us remind us of this kind of love.  Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity,” and Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friend.”

Commitment and sacrifice are two of the key qualities of love that are expressed in a true friendship.  In today’s blog we will be continuing our study of Romans 12 and examine some of the ways in which Christians are to treat one another.  Each of the character traits and behaviors we will look at are predicated on foundational principles and commands of verses 1 and 2, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of  God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”

The character traits a Christian are to develop

And the behaviors we are to have

Are simply the practical outworking

Of being a “living sacrifice” that

Is being “transformed by

The renewing of our minds.”

We have already seen some of the practical outworking of being a living sacrifice in our study of the first part of this chapter.  Christians are to have attitudes of humility because every Christian is a part of the body of Christ.  Each believer is equipped by God with gifts or gifts by which they are to serve Him, and every believer, every gift and every ministry is needed for the body to be healthy and growing in godly maturity.
Christians need one another.

Yesterday we examined the key practical character trait that is a result of being a living sacrifice.  Christians are to love without hypocrisy demonstrated by abhorring evil and clinging to what is good.  This love is agape, the love marked by its sacrificial nature in giving of itself for the benefit of another and based in conscious choice instead of fleeting emotions.  This is the love God has for us.  It is the love we are to have for God. And it is the love Christians are to have for one another and all humans.

Many people will act like they love someone, but the reality is that such love is not there. They are hypocrites who seek to use people for their own advantage.  Christians are to love without hypocrisy.  We say and do what is right for other people because of our response of love for God because of His love for us.  As living sacrifices, we seek to honor and please God above all else.  Our lives are to be centered on His kingdom and will and not our own.  Non-Christians try to avoid being hypocritical by changing their actions to match what they think and feel at any given moment.  The Christian avoids being hypocritical by doing what is right regardless of what they feel and then changing their attitude to match.

This true love also reflects God’s character and nature, and for that reason it abhors what is evil while it clings to what is good.  The idea of “abhor” here, as I explained yesterday, is . . .

Hating or detesting something

Even more than hell. 

There is an aversion to it and

You want to get away from it.  

The Christian is to feel that way

Toward anything that does not

Reflect God’s character and nature.  

At the same time, they desire

To hold fast to anything that does.

In being a living sacrifice, the Christian has a duty to God and himself to love without hypocrisy by abhorring what is evil and clinging to what is good.  This morning we continue on to verse 9 and the Christian’s duty as a living sacrifice toward other Christians.  But before we do, just a quick reminder that these character traits and behaviors are what Christians are to be and do as they are transformed by the renewing of their minds into mature Christians.  This is not something automatic and instantaneous, though we wish it were so.  Jesus Christ has forgiven His followers, and He has broken the power sin had over them, but Christians are not sinless.  We are in the process of being conformed to His image, but that picture is still being developed.  It is not perfection that makes the Christian different from the non-Christian, but being forgiven and the direction of their lives.

Believer’s Duties to One Another.

What then are a Christian’s duties to other Christians?  Romans 12:10-13 states, “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.” 

One of the things I discovered in studying this passage is how much we can miss with an English translation.  In English, this section appears to be a series of 10 related but independent statements or commands of how we are to treat each other.  However, just as in verse 9 in which there is one statement with two supporting clauses, here we have two statements with supporting clauses under each giving further explanation of how
those statements are to be fulfilled.

A more literal, though wooden, translation of verse 10 would be, “The brotherly love unto one another is devoted, in honor to one another giving preference.”  “Giving preference to one another in honor” is not an independent command, but it is the means by which we are to demonstrate our devotion to one another in brotherly love.  It defines the nature of this devotion of brotherly love.

Brotherly Love.

Brotherly love is “philadelphia,” a compound word that combines “philos, a word which we saw yesteday referred to love in the sense of affection such as in friendship, and “adelphos,” which means “brother.”   “Philadelphia” means “love, affection, or the friendship of a brother.”  The city of Philadelphia is supposed to be the city of brotherly love. (Whether it is that way would have to be determined by those who live there).  This
term is used throughout the New Testament to describe the relationship Christians are to have with one another.

Peter encouraged believers to develop this character trait, commanding in 2 Peter 1:5-7, “Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in [your] moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.”  It does take some work to develop this quality.  The Thessalonians had developed it and so Paul commends them, “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for [anyone] to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another” (1 Thessalonians 4:9), but Paul went on to encourage them to “excel still more” in it (verse 10).  It is something we have to let continue (Hebrews 13:1).  Peter speaks of the origin of brotherly love when he comments, “Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

This idea of brotherly love also comes out in how Christians commonly refer to one another as the “brethren” or “brother” or “sister.”  That is following a Biblical example, not just a cultural manner of speaking.

Brotherly Love Verses Friendship.

What is the difference between “brotherly love” and regular friendship?  It would be nice to just say that it is the greater love you have for your siblings than your friends, but the sad fact is that so many people have bad relationships with their siblings, that such a definition is confusing.  Ideally, your siblings should be your closest friends in life except for your spouse.  

The major difference between

Brotherly love and other relationships

Is the depth of the commitment.

Friendships come and go based on common interests and how close you live.  For example, you might have friends at work, but you do not socialize with them other than that. Other friendships may revolve around a sport or hobby, but the relationship does not go beyond that.  You also may be friends with those who live close by, but if they move away, it is rare that the relationship is maintained very long other than perhaps a Christmas card.  There are certainly exceptions, and I am glad I have several such exceptions in my own life, but that is how most friendships work.  There is a different dynamic that occurs among most siblings, even when they may not share other common interests or live nearby.

The lives of siblings intertwine because of shared heritage and memories and family obligations such as birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, and funerals which force your continued interaction with them even if you live far apart.  I live many miles from my brother and sisters. but when we talk, we immediately have an intimacy that does not exist with other friends.  Family obligations also invoke the responsibility of caring for each other when hard times comes.  Again, as Proverbs 17:17 points out, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”  Even though I live quite a ways from my brother and sisters, I know we would be there for each other if any of us faced trouble.

Within the Body of Christ

There is not only the idea

Of this greater commitment

To one another that should

Exist among siblings,

Since we are all

Brothers and sisters

By virtue of our common

Adoption into God’s family,

But beyond that is

The ideal of having

Loving relationships in

Which those obligations

Are carried out with joy

Because of our desire

To be with each other.

You want to be involved with your brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ.

Devotion.

This idea is strengthened by the word that is translated here as “be devoted.”  It is another compound word combining “philos,” a word we looked at earlier and meaning love in the sense of affection, with the word “storge,” which we saw yesterday, which describes the love of family members for one another.  Our brotherly love for one another is to have the commitment and affection of family members for one another.

As a living sacrifice who are being transformed by the renewing of our minds, we are to learn to love without hypocrisy, abhorring what is evil, and clinging to what is good.  The practical outworking of this in our relationship with other Christians is this brotherly love which is marked by the same type of deep devotion and commitment that is supposed to exist within a family.

Preferring One Another.

How is such brotherly love and devotion demonstrated?  Paul explains it in the supporting phrase at the end of verse 10 as “giving preference to one another in honor.”  The concept here is that of “leading out in showing the way of giving mutual respect, admiration, and appreciation for one another.”  We are not to wait for others to treat us well.  We are to set the example that others will follow.

Philippians 2:3-4 gives greater definition of this concept.  Paul begins that chapter by speaking of his desire for those in the Body of Christ to be working in harmony with one another.  Then he says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”  This is followed by his pointing to Jesus Christ as the example of this.  Jesus left the glories of heaven in order to become a man and willingly die on the cross as the
substitute sacrifice for our sins.  That is the ultimate example of humility and of self-sacrifice to meet the needs of others.  And as Paul said in Romans 5:8, Jesus did this while were still in our sins.  We were not deserving of it in any fashion, yet His love for even His enemies compelled Him to do this.  How much more then should we sacrifice of our own pride and what we think are our rights in order to serve our Christian brothers and sisters.  The reason that Christians struggle with being devoted to one another in brotherly love is their own pride.  At the heart of pride is the idea that you are more important than other people.

That is why the proud person thinks other people should serve them.  They think they deserve to be honored first, and afterward, they might condescend to show honor to someone else.  This is common in the world, but it also occurs in the Church.  Christians can think that they and what they do is more important than other believers and what they do.  

It is not until we come to the Cross of Christ that we understand what we all really are – worthless sinners who have been saved by God’s grace.  We are nothing in ourselves. All that we are at present is only because of God’s mercy in saving us from sin.  What we will be in the future is only because of what Jesus Christ will do for His own glory through us.

Remember that even the ministry you have in serving God has been given to you according to His will.  You are no more special in the Body of Christ than any other Christian though you have different gifts, different ministries, and different positions within the Body.  Everyone is needed for the Body to function properly.  We are to treat each other with that mutual respect and honor.

Do you consider the needs of others as more important than your own?  The Christian is supposed to do that, and especially so when it comes to other believers.  Paul tells us in Galatians 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”  The selfish person who sees life revolving around themselves has a great, if not impossible, struggle to do this.  The Christian is to respond to God’s love for them in Christ by their own love for Jesus and their fellow man.  They are to turn from self-centeredness to God-centeredness.  Life is no longer to be about their own will, but rather about seeing His will fulfilled.  Their view of people is to change from what can they get out of them to what can they do to help them walk with God.

A Functioning Family.

A properly functioning family gives of themselves for the best interest of the rest of the family.  Moms and dads sacrifice the things they could have had or done in order to care for their children.  In fact, I find that most good moms and dads will do things for their children that they would not do for themselves.  They train their children to behave that way with each other.  I am blessed to come from such a family. My parents sacrificed a lot in order to do what was best for my brothers and I, and they taught us to do the same with each other.

I was blessed with a wonderful younger brother, who I am sure I greatly irritated at times, but he was always there to help me out if he could do so.  He has also always been willing to share whatever he has with me even to this day.  My sisters were at times very irritating, and we had quite a few fights growing up.  As we got older, we matured and learned to get along better and appreciate each other more.  I can’t recall ever even having an argument with them since we reached our late teens.  I have always been proud of their achievements, even when they were better than my own. We all shared the name Davis, and anything good done by one member of the family was a good reflection on the rest of the family.

That is the way it is supposed to be in the family of God.  Being devoted to one another in brotherly love requires the humility to let God do with you as He desires and to rejoice in whatever it is.  It also means you rejoice in whatever God is doing in and through the lives of other believers.  There is no room for jealously.  Anything good done by one Christian is a cause of rejoicing for all Christians.

Another aspect of this brotherly love within the church is that we are to work through any problems that arise because of that mutual love for God and for one another. Friendships too often end when there is a disagreement.  Serious conflict can even turn friends into enemies.  When that happens in the church, it dishonors God; yet it happens too often among those who profess to love Him.

In a few das we will be examining the end of Romans 12 and how to deal with conflict and enemies, but for now, if you are in conflict with other Christians, or have had friendships end because of them, then you need to be praying about what you will do to resolve the conflict and restore broken relationships.  Every Christian is to be devoted to one another in brotherly love which is demonstrated in showing preference for one another in honor.  Don’t wait for them, you are to take the lead in being a living sacrifice for God and doing this.

This command does not mean that every Christian will be your best buddy or that you have to share your heart with every other Christian.  There are different levels of intimacy and relationship even within a family, so there are different levels within the church. Issues such as common interests, personality and trust affect how deep of a relationship we develop with other people.  However, in the family of God, all Christians are to have the commitment of getting along with one another and seeking each other’s best interest.  That is the nature of the true love that we are to have for God and one another.

Are you devoted to other believers with brotherly love?  Are you showing preference to them in honor?

Diligence.

In verse 11 Paul addresses the diligence by which we are to pursue not only what he has already talked about, but what remains in the chapter as well.  The first phrase of verse 11 is translated as “not lagging behind in diligence;” however, the force of the phrase is a little stronger if it is translated a little more wooden, “the diligence is not slothful.”  It is not so much that diligence is something that we are to work up and make sure we are not lagging behind in doing, but that being a living sacrifice acceptable to God requires that we are diligent without any laziness in our seeking and serving Him.

The word translated “diligence” here, literally means “haste,” “zeal,” “eagerness,” or “earnestly.”  The core idea is that the person quickly responds in earnestness to accomplish, promote, or strive after whatever is being requested.  It is how parents would like their children to respond to their commands and how your boss would like you to respond to his instructions.  When you are in charge of getting something done, you would like those under your authority to quickly respond and accomplish what you tell them.

The word translated as “not lagging,” can be translated as “slothful,” “lazy,” or “shrinking.”  It is the idea of someone who hesitates and delays in responding or doing what is required, and hence someone who is irksome or troublesome.

The two words strengthen each other because they are opposites.  Someone who is diligent is not lazy, and someone who hesitates, or delays, is not zealous or eager. Christians are to be marked by a quickness to respond to God’s will as they learn it because they love Him and desire to follow Him.  We should be eager to learn more of God and what He desires from us, and then earnestly seek to change to match.  As living sacrifices who are being transformed by the renewing of their mind, we are not to be slothful in being diligent to carry out God’s will as quickly as we learn it.

One reason for this diligence is that we know that our lives here are short.  We are like grass which flowers and then quickly withers (1 Peter 2:24).  We have a limited amount of time to accomplish something with our lives, so we follow Paul’s injunction in Ephesians 5:16 to be wise in making the most of our time, because the days are evil.

Being Zealous in Spirit.

This diligence is driven by the fact that believers are to be zealous in spirit.  The word “zealous” here is a transliteration of the Greek word.  It means to “boil” or “to be hot” and thus came to mean “fervent.”  The Christians’ soul has been touched by the Spirit of God which has given him purpose, meaning and hope in life.  We have exciting news to tell the world.  God has made a way for man to be forgiven his sin and dwell with God forever in heaven.  The result of that should be enthusiasm for serving God with your life.

Complacency and indifference are two of the great evils that can destroy a church. History shows that persecution rarely destroys the church, though it can often destroy buildings and it can drive believers away from certain areas.  Usually, the church will grow under persecution, though it may be driven “underground,” and meetings of believers have to become clandestine. It is complacency and indifference that usually causes churches to die.  

If you are content with the current state, there is a natural resistance to any changes including having new people to join you since they might cause problems.  If you are indifferent to the fact that your neighbors are under God’s condemnation and are bound for hell, you have little reason to go out of your way to tell them the gospel.  When the gospel is no longer being proclaimed, there is little reason left for the church’s existence.  A church that becomes indifferent to the lost will also be a church that has left its first love of Christ, and that will tolerate heresy and impurity.  Some of Jesus’ strongest words in Revelation 2 and 3 were for the church at Laodicea that had become “lukewarm.”  He said He would “spit them out” of his mouth.

Christians are to be zealous, fervent, enthusiastic about serving the Lord.  It should thrill us just to consider the fact that God, the sovereign and holy creator of everything, not only wants us to serve Him, but has equipped us with spiritual gifts to do so.  Our lives can count for eternity.  This does not mean that Christians cannot get discouraged, for sometimes what the Lord desires us to do is tough, consider the task He gave Jeremiah, but even then, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 15:58, we are to, “Be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.”  A person who is enthusiastic will also be diligent.

Serving the Lord.

The second reason Paul gives for our diligence without any laziness is in recognition of our position and whom we are serving.  We are not serving mere men.  We are serving God Himself who is our master.  The word used here stresses this relationship in service.  

Paul uses three different words related to serving in this chapter . . .

  • The word used back in verse 1 referred to our service done as a response of worship of God.   
  • The word used in verse 7 refers to the practical means by which service of God is carried out.
  • Here in verse 11, the particular word used for “serving” refers to “service as a bond-slave.”  

A bond-slave willingly subjugated his own desires for that of doing his master’s will out of his love for him.   The service given was done willingly without any resentment, and hence would be done diligently without any hesitation.

God has provided for our salvation from sin through faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ.   The reasonable response to that is to offer ourselves as living sacrifices acceptable to God.   We resist the pressure of the world to have us continue to live sinfully, and instead we are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ as our minds are renewed through God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit.   The practical results of these are to be seen in the godly development of our character.

Regardless of whatever you were like before becoming a follower of Christ, now that you are a Christian, your life is changing.  It is to be increasingly marked by love without hypocrisy which abhors evil and clings to what is good.  It develops relationships with other believers in which the devotion of brotherly love is demonstrated by the preference shown for one another in honor.  The needs of others are becoming more important to you than your own.  All these things are done with diligence because the Spirit of God has touched your life giving you something to be enthusiastic about.  There is nothing more wonderful than having the privilege of having your life count for
eternity through serving the Lord, your master, with whatever gift of gifts He has given you in whatever ministry He opened for you.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Practical Christian Living, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

Have you ever met someone who professed to be a Christian, but their life-style made you seriously question their claim?  Even non-Christians know that there are certain characteristics of behavior and attitude that should mark the Christian.  When those characteristics are obviously lacking, then there becomes a question as to whether a person’s claim to be a Christian is actually true.

Since we live in a society in which tolerance of everything except the truth is advocated as the supreme virtue, there are many that would immediately say it is wrong for people to question a person’s claim.  Paul had no such qualms.  In 2 Corinthians 13:5 he even challenges his readers to “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you fail the test.”  You see, when a person becomes a Christian, there will be changes that will take place in that person’s life.  This is not in any way saying that Christians will not stumble and sin.  It is not saying that individual Christians will not have serious struggles with certain sins.  Paul said in Romans 7 that even he struggled with his flesh and would find himself at times doing the very evil thing that he did not wish. The Apostle John writes to Christians and tells them that, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  He then adds, “If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us” (1 John 1:8, 10).

The issue here is not that the Christian will be perfect and without sin, but that the Christian will no longer be characterized by such sin.  Instead, the Christian will be characterized by the struggle against sin and will be making progress in that battle.  No Christian alive is what they want to
be in terms of personal holiness, but neither is any true Christian what they used to be.  Why? Because the change in belief concerning self, sin, and our Savior results in a change of attitude and action.  Paul covered the theological reality of this in Romans 6 pointing out that faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ results in our old self being crucified with Him so that we should no longer be slaves of sin.  We have been transferred from Satan’s kingdom to Christ’s realm.  There is a change of masters.  We no longer have to obey the devil, but we are now to obey Jesus.  The one that refuses to obey Christ and continues to follow Satan only demonstrates that there has not been a change of masters.

In the first 11 chapters of Romans, Paul has presented a lot of deep theological truths about what God has done for us in Jesus Christ.  In Chapter 12, Paul gets very practical and applies these truths to our everyday lives.  The foundation for all that Paul says in the rest of the book is based on what he says in Romans 12:1-2. “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”  We have covered the meaning and ramifications of these two verses already, but just as a quick reminder, being a living sacrifice means that your life is no longer lived for yourself, but for God and His glory.  You are crucified with Christ and no longer live, but Christ lives in you and through you.  Being a living sacrifice is the only reasonable response that the Christian can have to all that God has done for us in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

How does a Christian become such a living sacrifice?  It begins when they turn from their sin and self-righteousness to the salvation offered through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement for their sin.  It  continues on as they resist the pressure of the world to continue in sin and instead are transformed through a mind renewed by the Holy Spirit through God’s Word.

Paul explains the practical aspects of being such a living sacrifice throughout the rest of the book.  As we have already seen in verse 3, the Christian is to be humble and not, “Think more highly of themselves than they ought to think.”  The Christian is to understand that they are part of a larger group that makes up the body of Christ, and as part of that body, they recognize that every other part of the body is important for the whole to function properly.  We spent quite a bit of time going over the various ways in which God equips His people to be able to serve Him and build up the rest of the body.  Every gift, ministry, and believer is important as each of us use our various gifts to help the rest of body become more like Jesus Christ.

As we now move to verse 9, we find Paul turning his focus to the characteristics of how we are to treat other people.  This lays the foundation for what he will say in the rest of the book on how we are to function in relationship to government, society and other believers.

Love.

Verse 9 says, “Let love be without hypocrisy.  Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”  This opening phrase may seem simple, but it is profound for it is exactly the opposite of the natural sinful bent of men.  The nature of the love described here is not only sincere, but it finds evil to be repugnant and will hold fast to what is good.

English is generally a very descriptive language with many words available to make distinction between ideas that are similar, yet different.  However, when it comes to words for “love,” the English lacks such words.  We use the word “love” to describe everything from fond feelings of affection for family and close friends to our enjoyment of a good meal; we also use it to describe sensual desires both good and bad.

The Greeks had several words for “love.”  “Storge” described the love of family members for one another.  “Eros” described the sensual love between a man and a woman.  “Phileo” means affection and could be combined with other words to describe the love of friends, love of strangers, love of wisdom, love of pre-eminence, love or money, and even the love of strife.

The particular word used here in Romans 12:9 is “agape,” a word that was not used very often in daily life until it started being used by Christians to describe God’s love for us, our love for God, and the love we are to have for one another.  This love is marked by its sacrificial nature in giving of itself for the benefit of another.  It is based in conscious choice instead of fleeting emotions.  It continues through thick and thin, good times and bad, heartache and rejoicing.

  • This is the love God has for the world spoken of in John 3:16 that caused Him to send His only begotten Son so that whosoever believes in Him should have eternal life.  
  • This is the love God demonstrated in Jesus Christ in that while we were yet sinners, He died for our sins in our place.
  • This is the committed love that God has for His people that will never depart and never diminish (2 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 13:5).
  • This is a quality that is so closely bound to God that He Himself defines and characterizes it, for God is love (1 John 4:16).
  • This is the kind of love that we are commanded to have for God.  In Matthew 22:37 Jesus cites the command of Deuteronomy 6:5 as the great commandment.  It applies to Christians just as it did to the Jews (1 John 5:2-5).

We are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind.  This command is not using three or four categories to describe the ways in which we are to love God, but rather it expresses the totality, the comprehensiveness with which we should love God.  Notice that it is to love God with all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.  Nothing is held back.  We are to love God with every part of our being, with every aspect of our nature, with everything that makes us what we are as humans.  Taking into account the sacrificial nature of “agape,” we can now understand how being a “living sacrifice acceptable unto God” is a demonstration of our love for Him.  

This is also the love that we are to have for one another.  Jesus pointed out to His disciples that it would be their love for one another that would demonstrate to all men that they were His followers (John 13:35).  John points out that a lack of love for one another is the evidence that a person is a child of the devil (1 John 3:10).  He goes on to say in 1 John 3:20-21 and 5:1-2, “If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.  And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” . . . “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God; and whoever loves the Father loves the [child] born of Him.  By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments.”

This is the love Christians are to have for all people, including our enemies.  Jesus said that the second great commandment is “to love our neighbors as ourselves.”   He then gave the story of the Good Samaritan to illustrate both the nature of this love and its extension to everyone.  Jesus was even more direct in Matthew 5:44 when He told us to, “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.”

This love is a primary evidence of being a true Christian.  As already pointed out, those who do not have it for other people do not have it for God.  1 John 3:1-18 shows both the seriousness of this and its practical application, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren.  He who does not love abides in death.  Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.  But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?  Little children, let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth.”  Those
who do not demonstrate in practical actions and attitudes agape love toward God and people have no valid claim in being Christians.

Without Hypocrisy.

Paul further strengthens the nature of this love by adding that it is to be “without hypocrisy.”  The word here is “anupokritos.”  It is the negation of the word “hupokrites” from which we get our word, “hypocrite.”  The word comes from the ancient Greek plays in which actors would play various parts by holding up a mask over their face.  The word came to mean “two faced” or “someone who is acting out a part instead of being truthful.”

The Bible has quite a bit to say about hypocrisy and hypocrites.   The Scribes and Pharisees were the primary examples that Jesus used.  They thought themselves to be holy people who showed the unlearned the way to God.  The truth was that they were far from God and were leading people to Hell (Matthew 15:14; 23:15).  Jesus pronounced a series of woes upon them in Matthew 23 because of this.  They honored God with their lips in public, but their hearts were far from Him (Mark 7:6).  They even came to Jesus trying to flatter Him by calling Him “teacher,” but their purpose was simply to try to trap Him in something they could use against Him (Matthew 22).

The root of hypocrisy is pretending to be something you are not in order to manipulate another person to get what you want from them.  Flattery and feigned friendship are tools hypocrites will use to accomplish their goals.  That is worldly wisdom.  The Christian is to live according to God’s wisdom. James 3:17 tells us that this, “Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”  Hypocrisy, along with other evils such as malice, guile, envy, and slander are to be far from the Christian’s lips (1 Peter 2:1).  The
Christian is to long for and live by the truths of the enduring Word of God, and all those things, including hypocrisy, are the opposite of what the Bible says.

All of us are familiar with hypocrisy.  Either we have been guilty of it ourselves or we have suffered at the hands of hypocrites.  It always hurts when the mask gets removed from the hypocrite and their true selfish nature is revealed.  From that experience alone we can see that true love and hypocrisy are as far away from each other as can be.  Hypocrites are self-centered and see relationships in terms of what they can get out of it.  True love sees relationships in terms of what they can give to it
and benefit the other.

People flatter others with the goal of being able to manipulate or take advantage of them later.  Proverbs 29:5 warns, “A man who flatters his neighbor Is spreading a net for his steps.”  Jude 16 speaks of the same thing warning about the ungodly who, “Speak arrogantly, flattering people
for the sake of [gaining an] advantage.” 
The unsuspecting are deceived through the smooth and flattering speech of the ungodly, who exist even within the church (Romans 16:18).  We also find that the adulteress seduces her victims with flattery (Proverbs 7:5, 21), and so does the adulterer.  Proverbs 26:28 tells us, “A lying tongue hates those it crushes, and a flattering mouth works ruin.”  Flattery, like other forms of hypocrisy, is a sin that is to be taken seriously.  Be wary of those that seek to win your favor through undeserved praise and compliments.

Hypocrites will be your friend as long as they are getting or think they will get something from you, but when it requires a true sacrifice of themselves on their part for your benefit, don’t count on them.   Proverbs 19:6-7 reminds us, “Many will entreat the favor of a generous man, and every man is a friend to him who gives gifts.  All the brothers of a poor man hate him; how much more do his friends go far from him!  He pursues them with words, but they are gone.”  A true friend loves at all times (Proverbs 17:17) and is more concerned about what they can give to the relationship than what they can get.  That is how Christians are to treat one another.

There are several other aspects of agape that make it antithetical to hypocrisy.  Paul points out “Psome of these qualities in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 where he describes agape as “Patient, kind, and not jealous, bragging, or arrogant.  It does not act unbecomingly or seek its own.  It is not provoked, nor does it take into account a wrong suffered.  It does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices
with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never fails.”
 Hypocrisy is subject to all these things.  

Love is honest and true as well as kind and thoughtful.  For that reason, it will express itself on issues that a hypocrite would never touch.  The Bible says in Proverbs 17:9 that the counsel of a friend is sweet.  That is true even when there may be correction involved.  Proverbs 27:6 tells us that, “Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.”  King David preferred to have the righteous smite him in kindness and reprove him (Psalm 141:5) than to suffer the hypocrisy of a deceitful friend such as Ahithophel who caused him much grief (2 Samuel 17; Psalm 41:9).  Believers are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) instead being like the hypocrites who tell people what they think they would like to hear in order manipulate.

Let me add here that the Christian does not avoid being a hypocrite by brutally telling people what we really think.  Such brutal honesty is not only unkind, for it is also based in selfishness, but it is a sure way to make sure you have very few friends.  The Christian avoids being a hypocrite by being a living sacrifice.  We are to love God and other people in this manner of agape.  That includes non-Christians and enemies as well as other believers.  We say and do what is right before God regardless of our personal feelings or thoughts of the moment. We then examine ourselves to change our attitudes to be more like our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The world will try to conform us into being like they are, hypocrites who try to impress other people only because it will help them build their own kingdom.  We resist that pressure because our concern is building Christ’s kingdom, not our own.  We are to live according to God’s priorities.  People
are more important than possessions, and purity is more important than people.  We are to lovingly speak the truth in forthright and honest relationships with the goal of giving of ourselves in helping people know and become like Jesus Christ.  As Ephesians 4:29 commands, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Abhoring Evil.

In the second part of Romans 12:9, Paul further defines the nature of this love and how it affects the life of the believer, “Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.”  The word “abor” is  a compound word that combines the verb “stugeo” with the preposition “apo” which intensifies its meaning.  “Stugeo” is to “hate” or “detest with horror.”  This verb came to signify “hating or detesting something as much as hell.”  The compound word here is even more intense than that.  The idea here is “to find something so detestable that you shrink back from it.”  You want to get away from it.

The love Paul speaks of in this verse should cause the Christian to have a strong reaction to and aversion of what is evil.  The Christians’ love for God and striving to be a living sacrifice that is pleasing unto Him should cause them to flee in horror from anything that is evil.  That kind of reaction
demonstrates the radical change that takes place in the Christian as they are transformed into the image of Jesus Christ by the renewing of their minds.  Prior to salvation, we are bent toward sin. While there were certain evil things that you might have abhorred, there were many other evil things to which you were attracted.  The Christian increasingly abhors all evil.  The “evil” spoken of here is everything that is antithetical to God, anything contrary to His nature.  Evil is the opposite of godliness.  Those who love the Lord are to hate evil (Psalm 97:10).  Proverbs tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10) and Proverbs 8:13 defines the “fear of the Lord”  as hating evil.  What God hates, we should also hate, and God hates evil.

What are some of the specifics that God hates?  Proverbs 6:16-19 tells us, “There are six things which the Lord hates, Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, And hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil,
a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers.” 
Proverbs 8:13 tells us that God also hates, “Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth.”

Other things that God considers to be abominations include the “crooked man” (Proverbs 3:32); “A false balance” (Proverbs 11:1); “The perverse in heart” (Proverbs 11:20); “the sacrifice of the wicked (Proverbs 15:8); “He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous” (Proverbs 17:15); any cultic or occultic practice (Deuteronomy 18:10-12); and “Those who act unjustly (Deuteronomy 25:16), to name some of them.  God hates anything that is contrary to His holiness.

The sad part of this list is that there are many professing Christians in our day that not only practice these things, but they even want to justify themselves in their pursuit of them.  It is not surprising that Christians do evil things, for as already pointed out, Christians are still sinners and will still sin.  However, they should be marked, as was Paul, with a hatred for the sin that they do, not a defense of it.

What characterizes your actions and attitudes toward God?  Your love for Him should cause you to abhor anything that would not please Him.  Yet, how often do we treat God as if He existed for our benefit instead of we existing for His glory.  Too often we are guilty of thinking God is holding out on us because He does not give us something the world says is good, yet the truth is that it would be bad for us.  God is our loving heavenly Father who gives what is good to His children (Matthew 7:11), but He is the one that defines what is good.  And as a loving Father, He also knows how to chastise us when we disobey.  What characterizes your actions and attitudes toward God?   What characterizes your actions and attitudes toward others?  Your love for them should cause you to abhor anything that would cause them to stumble into sin.  Sadly, too often Christians can be just as self-centered as the world.  They can say and do unkind things simply because they do not give consideration to the other person.

I have a pastor friend who some years ago we asked a member of his church family to be a little more careful in how she dressed.  His church family did not have any dress code other than to be modest as 1 Timothy 2:9 says.  She was not flagrantly immodest, but she did at times dress in a way that several Christian brothers were distracted by her.  Tragically, she ended up being more concerned about herself than others.  She should have been abhorred that she could have in any way contributed to brothers stumbling in their thoughts.  She should also have had enough love for them to have happily modified her own behavior for their benefit.  How much love do you have for others?

What are the things that gain your approval when no one else is with you?  Our love for God and others should cause us to abhor anything that does not promote holiness in our own lives, both in action and in thought.  Yet, how often do we not only allow ourselves to be put in situations where there is evil going on or we are watching it, but we secretly are enjoying it.

In abhorring evil, we should have the same commitment as David in Psalm 101:3 who vowed. “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; it shall not fasten its grip on me.”  David knew the tragedy of what could happen when he allowed his eyes to stray.  He did not want to repeat the tragedy.  Is that a commitment you are willing to make out of your love for God and for other people?

Clinging to Good.

Paul concludes verse 9 with the opposite of abhorring evil, “Cling to what is good. The word “cling” means to “cleave,” “be cemented to,” or “glued.”  Interesting enough, the word “abhorring” is in the active tense.  It is something you are to do.  “Clinging” is in the passive tense.  It happens to you as the result of something else.  The Christian “cleaves” or “holds on to” what is good because of their love for God.  It is the only reasonable response a person can have when they love God for they want to please Him.

The “good” spoken of here is contrasted with the evil in the previous phrase.  It refers “to all that reflects the nature and character of God” which defines what is good.  “Good” refers “to what is upright, beneficial, and honorable before God.”  As we are become a living sacrifice and become transformed by the renewing of our mind, our lives change and we will demonstrate what is good and acceptable before God (Romans 12:2).

“Goodness” is one of the character qualities that is to be part of every Christian’s character for it is one of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:20-21).  That character in turn will demonstrate itself in good deeds.  Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  One of the purposes of our salvation from sin is so that we might carry out these good deeds, which Jesus said in Matthew 5:16, should be done in such a way that they bring glory to God.  A person who has the character trait of goodness will cling to what is good because it matches their desire to be like Jesus Christ.

The Christian is to be characterized by agape love which is without hypocrisy because it is only reasonable to respond to God’s great love for us demonstrated in Jesus Christ with a corresponding love for Him and His people.  As the Christian resists the pressure of the world to conform them into its image and instead is transformed by the renewing of their mind, that which is evil will become
increasingly detestable to them while at the same time they will be clinging ever more tightly to what is good.  The point here is not whether you have yet arrived at full Christian maturity in these areas, but what your desires are and which direction you are heading.  What direction are you heading?

Remember too, that we do not walk with Christ alone.  God has given every Christian spiritual gifts by which we can serve God in building up the Body of Christ.  You are to serve God by using your gifts to help others become like Jesus, and they are to use their gifts in helping you become like Christ. Let’s commit ourselves to helping one another love in this manner and to abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Spiritual Gifts, Part 5

Grace For The Journey

For the last several days we have been examining Spiritual Gifts.  We have covered those gifts listed in Romans 12 and similar gifts mentioned in other passages.  In today’s blog, I want us to examine some truths in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 and deal with the practical aspects of discovering and using your spiritual gifts. Much of what people commonly understand about spiritual gifts is based in experience and not on what the text actually says.  Our goal should be to live according to what God actually says and not on what people say based on their experiences.

Paul introduces the topic of Spiritual things in 1 Corinthians 12:1 in response to some question they had, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware.”  Paul is explaining to them about the “pnumatikon”“the spiritual things.”  The word “gifts” is not in the text, though the general idea of it is implied in the context.  That is why your Bible has “gifts” in italics.  We might be better to just translate this as “spirituals” or “spiritual things” because as soon as we add “gifts” our thoughts tend to center on them and they are not in the focus of Paul’s discussion that starts here and continues on through chapter 14.  

His interest here is more on their being

Spiritual as opposed to being carnal.  

They have gifts that are spiritually given,

So they should use them for spiritual purposes.  

They are part of a spiritual body, So,

They should live according to spiritual priorities.

The Corinthians were not ignorant concerning the spiritual gifts themselves, for in 1:7 Paul had already told them that they “were not lacking in any gift.”  Their ignorance was in the purpose of those gifts and how to use them.  

In verse 2 and 3, Paul reminds them of their past in paganism and how they came to Christ, “You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the dumb idols, however you were led.  Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed;’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”   Why does Paul remind them of this?   Because much of their problem in this area is similar to the problem they were having in other areas.  They were dragging their old ideas and practices of paganism into the church.  Notice how Paul puts it, “When you were pagans, you were carried away to these dumb idols, even you were led.”  This pictures the pagan mystery religions’ practices.  The worshipers would be carried away in the emotional hysteria of either the ecstatic state or the mystical experience of enthusiasm.

The pagan worship in Corinth gave great value to the state of ecstasy, and the person that entered it was held in high esteem as having achieved the ultimate in their religion. This condition was viewed as a supernatural, sensuous communion with a deity.  Through frenzied hypnotic chants and ceremonies the worshipers experienced semiconscious euphoric feelings of oneness with the god or goddess.  The ecstasy might take the form of either a trance or trance like state, or in the case of the worship of Aphrodite, unrestrained sexual orgies.  To help a person achieve this state, various practices could be used including vigils, fastings, the contemplation of sacred objects, chanting, and even drunkenness.  Physical exertion in whirling dancing and such could also be used to help to produce the state of ecstasy.

Similar to ecstasy, and sometimes accompanying it, was a condition termed
“enthusiasm.”  The participant would become involved in divination, revelatory dreams, and visions.  Plato and Virgil record the scenes of these practices in which the people would be so caught up in emotional hysteria that they would begin shaking, fall down, and babble in ecstatic speech.  All these practices are still common in many pagan religions today.

Because these things appeared to be supernatural, even if bizarre to our minds, the practice had a strong attraction to people, and some of the Corinthians confused the miracles of the Holy Spirit with their pagan practices.  Satan always seeks to mimic and soon many of these Corinthian Christians were bringing their pagan practices into the church.  And as the next verse indicates, if a person was supposedly in one of these spiritual states, they even tolerated them saying things that are blasphemous.

Verses 3 says, “Therefore I make known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus is accursed;’ and no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Spirit.”  Apparently there were those who were supposedly speaking by the spirit in whatever manner, but were in fact blaspheming the name of Christ.  Incredible!  They were doing that while supposedly under the control of the Holy Spirit.  Paul says, “NO!” The Spirit will not allow such a thing.  Paul is not saying someone cannot physically say “Jesus is Lord,” unless the Holy Spirit is present.  He is saying that the Spirit promotes Jesus and glorifies Him.  Someone who is “in the Spirit” will also glorify Jesus.  They will not be blaspheming Him.

Origin And Purpose Of Spiritual Gifts.

Starting in verse 4, Paul turns his attention to the question of spiritual gifts themselves. In verses 4-8, Paul tells them where the gifts, ministries, and effectiveness of those ministries come from.  We have looked at these verses before, but they bear repeating before we get to specific gifts given as examples in verses 8-10.

Verse 4 states, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”   “Gifts” here is “charismaton” from which we get the word “charismatic.”  It means “gift of grace.”  The Holy Spirit is the same for all Christians, but He gives different gifts to different people. Every Christian is given a spiritual gift or gifts by which they are to serve the Lord.  There are all sorts of spiritual gifts, as we have seen over the several blogs, but
whatever gift it may be, it came by the Spirit.

Verse 5 says, “There are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord.”  The Lord is the same for all Christians, but He will use those different gifts in different Christians in a variety of ministries as He chooses.  We have already seen this in the many gifts we have already studied.  Ministries vary in the age group they are used in (children, youth, adults, elderly), the setting they are used (public, private), and in their particular expression.

Verse 6 declares, “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all.”  God is the same for all Christians, but the effectiveness of those different gifts
used in different ministries will also be different – ACCORDING TO GOD.  The gift and ministry will vary in how many people are affected by it.  It could just be a few people at a Bible Study, or with more people at a church service, or it could be used regionally, nationally, or even internationally.

The bottom line is that God has gifted

Every believer to serve Him,

But the gift or gifts given,

The ministry that the gift(s)

Are used in, and the

Effectiveness of the gift(s)

Are according to the Lord’s

Will, and not your own.

The purpose of God giving these spiritual gifts and ministries to you is stated in verse 7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.”  No gift is given for private usage. Every gift is meant to fit in as part of the whole body of Christ and help it.  We learn from Ephesians 4:12 and 16 that all gifts are for the building up of the whole Body.  No gift is for private edification.  

What are these “manifestations of the Spirit,” these outward evidences of the Spirit’s presence?  In Galatians 5 Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in a person’s life – “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”  In this text, the evidence is the gift(s) given by the Spirit so that God’s children can serve Him and thereby benefit the whole Body.

Which gift manifests the Holy Spirit in a person’s life?  The text here is clear that it is any gift.  I will add that any so called “gift” that is not displayed along with the fruit of the Spirit cannot be considered evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.  Pentacostal doctrine on this issue is simply wrong.  The gift of speaking in an unknown tongue is not the “manifestation of the Spirit” or of being “baptized in the Spirit.”  It is only one of many gifts that could be given.

Any gift used in any ministry with any effect is a manifestation of the Spirit, and its purpose is for the common good of the whole Body.  I cannot stress this enough.  There are no insignificant gifts.  There are no insignificant ministries.  There are no insignificant people in the church.  Every person, every gift, and every ministry is needed in order for the Body to be healthy and carry out its God given purposes of worshiping God, caring for one another, building each other up, and declaring the message of salvation from sin by God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spiritual Gifts

What are these gifts?  We have already studied Romans 12:6-8, which mentions prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, giving, leading and mercy.  We have also looked at the gifts of preaching, speaking, helps, and administration that are mentioned in other passages.  Again, because of the mention of these various gifts are scattered around the Bible, I do not believe the Holy Spirit intended to give us an exhaustive list of all His gifts.  The gifts mentioned are simply examples so that the point can be made
that God has equipped us, and we are to serve Him.  I hope that our study so far has helped you think through how God might use you in serving Him.

All spiritual gifts are supernaturally derived according to the will of the Spirit of God.  A spiritual gift may use a natural talent, or it may function where there is not natural talent or skill, and a person with a natural skill may not have the corresponding spiritual gift.

The key question

In determining

A spiritual gift is:

Is God using you

In that area?

Your gift, whatever it is, will help the rest of the Body become more like Jesus Christ. That includes helping those without that particular gift fulfill God’s commands in that area.  For example, a person with the gift of mercy will help others become more merciful.  A person with the gift of giving will inspire others to be more giving. A person who teaches will help others fulfill their own obligations in teaching those they are responsible for.

Using Your Gift.

The very practical questions now arises of how do I know what gift or gifts I have, and how do I begin to use them? 

1) You don’t need to be that concerned about labeling your gift.  Generally, you find out what gift you have after you have been using it for awhile.  The primary concern is just serving the Lord.

Serving the Lord must start with your walk with Him.  The more you know Him, and the closer you walk with Him, the greater will be your ability to serve Him.  The greater the harmony between your will and His will the more God can use you.

2) As you walk closely with the Lord, see what desires He has He placed in your heart.  That is the point of Psalm 37 where it says, “Delight yourself in the Lord; and He will give you the desires of your heart.”  As you delight yourself in the Lord, your desires change to match His.  He then grants those desires because they are according to His will.  

You simply need to try and serve Him in some specific area.  How can you know whether the Lord has gifted you in an area or not if you have not tried?  Too often fear keeps us from the blessings God would have for us if we would just trust Him and step out in the face of our fears.

3) Evaluate your spiritual gifts, your heart or passion (what you really enjoy doing), you abilities, how God has wired you, what experiences have prepared your for ministry, and how the Lord is using you.  Have others responded positively to your ministry?  Have others become more like Christ because of it?  Do other mature believers confirm the effect of your ministry in that particular area?

I did not know God had gifted me to pastor/teach until I was called and challenged to do it.  I tried it with some fear and trepidation.  I began leading Bible Studies within my your group, then I started youth ministries or worked to strengthen them in other churches, opportunities opened for me to preach at Coffee Houses and my home church gave me opportunities to preach, and the Lord has opened doors for pastoring churches.  I saw God use my gifts in the lives of other people, and then those more mature than I confirmed it.  Over the years, my part has simply been a matter of being faithful and learning to use this gift as effectively as I know how, but it is God that opens the door to ministry and makes me effective.

The last aspect in determining where you should serve the Lord is what I will call your compulsion-joy level.  If we are properly serving the Lord, He will do one of two things. He will either give us a great joy in the midst of the service, or He will compel us to do it. We will either have a sense of pleasure in the serving knowing we are doing God’s will, or we will be like Jeremiah.  God called him to a thankless ministry of rebuking the
Hebrews and even told him that the people would not listen.  Not surprisingly, Jeremiah did not like that ministry, yet when he refrained he described it as a “burning fire shut up in his bones,” and he was compelled to continue preaching to those stubborn and obstinate people.

What are you currently doing to serve the Lord?  As you consider the areas God may have gifted you and your desires to try a new area of ministry, what will the Lord have you do in helping the whole Body of Christ mature?  When will you begin doing it?

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Spiritual Gifts, Part 4

Grace For The Journey

Ruling, leading, administration, and governing.  Words that can have quite a few different meanings to different people.  

  • Some think of rulers as autocratic.  They are in charge and everyone else must do as they say.  
  • Others think of leaders as those who will get out in front to make a path for those who will follow.  They put themselves at risk before anyone else does.
  • Then there is administration and governing.  In mind of some, that is the person who does all the administrative work on behalf of the majority of the group that tells him what to do.

In today’s blog we are going to find out what the Bible says about those that God has specifically gifted to lead in His church.  We continue in our study of spiritual gifts in Romans 12.  In verses 1 through 7 we read as follows, “I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, [which is] your spiritual service of worship.  And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.  For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, [let each exercise them accordingly]: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

In coming to a discussion on the gift of “leading,” or “ruling,” it is vitally important to stress once again the humility that must be part of the Christian’s character regardless of what particular gift they might have.  The particular gift or gifts that each Christian has as well as the way in which that gift is used in ministry and the effectiveness of that ministry will differ from other Christians according to the will of God (1 Corinthians 12:4-7), and all of it is for the common good of the whole body of Christ.  Every single Christian and every single gift and ministry is needed for the body to be healthy and effectively accomplish all that God has called us to do.  There are no insignificant gifts. There are no unimportant ministries.  Every believer and everything they do is to be for the glory of God.

The Christian leader who understands these principles of God’s gifting of His people will be humble, because they will recognize that they are really no more important than anyone else in the church even if they do have additional responsibilities.  They will also be humble because they will understand that all that they do is to be for God’s glory and not for building up their own little kingdom for their own glory.  A godly Christian leader is never jealous of others because they would rejoice in all that God does through everyone including those who have greater prestige.  The goal is God’s glory, not our own. That is true of every gift and every ministry.

In our study so far, we have already examined the gifts of “prophecy,” “preaching,” “speaking,” “service” or “ministry,” “helps,” “teaching,” “exhortation,” and “giving.”   We have also seen that God requires every Christian to serve Him to some extent in each of these areas, but there are also those that serve the Lord beyond what is generally commanded in these areas.   A person who does that is demonstrating their area of giftedness.   We only really know what our giftedness might be as we use it is service to the Lord.   A person gifted in an area has greater effectiveness than normal in that area in glorifying God and helping other believers in their Christian walk.

GIFT REVIEW.

Every Christian is to “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), but the person with the gift of prophecy is able to proclaim what God has said with effectiveness in helping other believers become more like Christ.  Those who do this in a public settings would also have the gift of being appointed by God as a “preacher” (1 Timothy 2:7), while those who do this in a more general nature may have the gift of “speaking” (1 Peter 4:11).  There are those today that claim to have the gift of prophecy in the sense of foretelling the future, but such a claim would have to be backed up by being 100% accurate 100% of the time, otherwise they are false prophets who are to be rejected and who are under God’s wrath.

The gifts of “service” or “ministry,” and that of “helps” are related to each other.  “Service” literally refers to a table waiter and is a general term meaning service “manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name” (MacArthur). “Helps” has a root meaning of “a laying hold of” and came to mean “to aid, help” or “rendering assistance.”  The main difference between the two gifts would seem to be that “helps” is more personal in nature, and “service” is more general in nature, though there is much overlap between the two.  The person with either of these gifts glorifies God and encourages other believers by the assistance and help they give to other believers in their work.

Those with the gift of “teaching” are especially effective in being able to transfer knowledge of spiritual things along with understanding so that the truths learned are applied to life.  This gift can be manifested in all sorts of ways with different kinds and ages of people and in different ministries ranging from not only speaking and writing, but also in music, art, and drama.

In my last blog, we saw that the gift of “exhortation” can manifest itself in many different ways including advising, pleading, encouraging, warning, strengthening, and comforting people.  A common thread in all these different aspects of exhortation is their tie to using the truth of God to help a person live according to it.  We urge people to know the Bible.  We exhort believers to live according to it.  We are comforted by its promises. We warn people about the ignoring it.  “Exhortation” is to be a common part of the lives of every Christian, but those with this gift are especially effective at it.

The gift of giving” is much more than just giving of finances.  It could be money, but it could also be the specific items that will meet the need at hand – food, clothes, gas, or even your own blood.  The person with this gift “gives of himself, not for himself.  He does not give for thanks or recognition, but for the sake of the one who receives his help and for the glory of God” (MacArthur).  All Christians are commanded to give, but the one with this gift goes beyond normal in sharing of himself, his abilities, and what he has for use in glorifying God and helping others to become more like Jesus Christ. Those with this gift have a keen sense that God will meet their own needs even and He uses them to meet the needs of others.

LEADING.

The next gift in Paul’s list in Romans 12 is that of “leading.”  The word here is also translated as “ruling” and its basic meaning is “to set over” or “to stand before.”  It occurs 8 times in the New Testament and it ranges in meaning from “lead,” “to have charge over,” “to manage,” “to rule” and “to maintain.”  The idea of leading or ruling in this word is joined with the idea of protecting and caring for.  The leader in the church is not to be like leaders in the world who think of themselves as more important than others and see those below them as existing for their benefit.

In Matthew 20:25-28 Jesus told His disciples, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and [their] great men exercise authority over them.  It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”  This would be the same sense of leading or ruling that Paul speaks of here in Romans 12:8.  It is not a matter of authority, though the church leader does have authority as we shall see in a few minutes, but rather one of service.  Peter instructed elders in 1 Peter 5:1-4 to “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.”

Peter says the leader is to carry out this work “with eagerness,” and Paul tells us here that the leader is to do so “with diligence.”  The church leader has a genuine concern for those under his care, so he is earnest in carrying out his responsibilities toward them. This again emphasizes that leadership in the church is one of true service on behalf of others, and not about getting others to serve the leader.

Now in a few minutes we are going to concentrate more on those that also are called to be church leaders in the sense of holding the office of pastor and deacon, but let me first make it clear that this concept of leadership Paul speaks of here is to be true for all leaders in the church regardless of the particular position they might hold whether it is something in which they lead lots of people or only one or two.

Leadership as used here is a general requirement for most Christians.  

  • Husbands have a responsibility in loving their wives by providing for them and caring for them.  That includes leading them spiritually.  Ephesians 5 specifically calls husbands to love their wives in the same manner in which Christ loved the church which included seeking her purity.  Husbands should be diligent to assist their wives in becoming holy and blameless.  
  • Fathers and mothers have a responsibility in leading their children by raising them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.  
  • Any Christian who is discipling another believer has a responsibility in caring for that disciple by teaching them to obey whatsoever things the Lord has commanded and living their own life as an example of godliness before them.

These same truths must be demonstrated in the lives of pastors and deacons otherwise they are not qualified.  1 Timothy 3:4 states that the pastor must be “one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity but if a man does not know how to manage his own household, how will he take care of the church of God?”  The word “manage” here is the same word as in Romans 12:8.  The same word is used again in 1 Timothy 3:12 in applying this same truth to deacons who must also be “good managers of their children and their own households.”

Paul uses the word again in reference to pastors in 1 Timothy 5:17 saying, “Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.”  The word “rule” here is the same word as well.  But notice here how “preaching and teaching” would be a sub-category of this “ruling.”  The elder/pastor does have authority to direct, but his ruling is done through managing.  We generally think of rulers as those who dictate what must be done, but the elder/pastor seeks to exhort, encourage, and prod people into doing what is right through the Word of God and godly wisdom.  That is why the idea of management fits so well here.  It is getting people to do the things that need to be done more through motivation and example than dictatorial threats.  A good manager will clearly communicate what needs to be done while instilling in people the vision for getting it done and eliciting from people their very best in accomplishing the work.

The requirements placed on pastor/elders are the examples that everyone else should follow. Those who have the gift of “leading,” but are not in a church office, will still lead in the same manner.  It is important to note that Paul’s introduction to the requirements for “overseer” (pastor) in 1 Timothy 3:1 is that his emphasis is upon the work and not the office of being a pastor – “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do.”

Several passages tell us that pastors do have authority, but as pointed out here, it is to be in humility through their care for those they are leading.  In 1 Peter 5:2, Peter tells us that elders were to “shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight. . .” Shepherding describes the work the pastor is supposed to do.  It involves leading, feeding, protecting, and binding up the injuries of the sheep under his care.  The sheep do not tell the shepherd what to do.  The sheep follow the shepherd wherever he goes because they trust him.  So it is in the church that the pastor has the work of leading the sheep, the flock of God, into righteousness.  The shepherd may need to correct the sheep at times to keep them on the right path and safe from danger, but the correction is done out of love for the sheep.  The pastor must also do with his people at times. From the Latin translation of “shepherd” we get our word “pastor.”  Overseer, bishop, elder, and pastor refer to the same person.  Some of the words refer to the office and some refer to the work.

The pastor also exercises oversight.  Oversight is from “episcope” which means “overseer,”“one who looks over to care for.”  The noun form of this is translated as “bishop.”  The pastor is also a “bishop,” and that refers to his position by which he carries out his work.  The pastor oversees the flock that he pastors.  He cares for his sheep.

Hebrews 13:17 uses a different word to refers to church leaders, but it also emphasizes the wisdom in obeying their leadership, “Obey your leaders, and submit to them; for they keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account.  Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you.”  The word here for “leader” is used of one who has command authority such as a chief or governor.

A godly leader makes good decisions on behalf of those under his care.  He directs those under his authority into doing the right things even while seeking to train them to operate on godly principles instead of his personal direction.  He cares for the flock God has entrusted to him.  He will warn them of their own bent toward sin and seek to protect them from ungodly influences from outside.  

Those who are in an office of church leadership must also demonstrate these qualities.  Those who are gifted in this area will perform these ministries whether they have an official church office of some sort or not.  They would simply be about the business of using their gift to lead others into greater Christlikeness.

ADMINISTRATION.

Another word that is used for church leaders is found in 1 Corinthians 12:28 in which Paul lists “administrations” as another spiritual gift.  The word is used for those who “steer or guide, such as a ships’ pilot.”  This is just a synonym for “leading” in Romans 12:8, for both carry similar ideas.  A difference here would be that this word does not carry as strong the idea of caring for those being lead.  There is more emphasis on the work itself of leading and directing.

Those with this gift would have the ability to guide or pilot.  This would be helpful to individual Christians, but it is also needed for the local church.  To use the sailing analogy since the word can mean pilot.  The ship of the church has a course to take and a destination to reach.  There needs to be someone who can keep the ship on course while also avoiding the dangerous rocks and shoals that could seriously damage the ship.  A person with this gift can handle all the stuff that can flood a church with offers and opportunities and pick out those that will help the church in its ministries while keeping it from being sidetracked on peripheral issues.  They would also help the church to avoid those things that might cause harm to the church’s ministry.  They can keep the church moving forward

A person with this gift might function quietly within a small ministry, or it could expand all the way up to having a position on a church or missions staff as the “administrator” who keeps the organization functioning smoothly.  They are a great blessing because they can help people function in harmony with others according to their gifts.  They enjoy seeing others succeed in ministry.

MERCY.

The final gift in Paul’s list in Romans 12 is “mercy.  The idea of this word is “to have pity and extend compassion toward those who are in need.”  It is a practical gift of action. Feeling pity and compassion without acting upon it is a worthless stirring of emotion. Mercy reaches out and gives of itself to lessen the burden a person is having by both pointing them to the hope we have in God and His promises and seeking to meet the physical, emotional, or mental needs that are present.

God desires that every Christian become merciful because we are to reflect the mercy that God has shown us.  Our salvation itself is based on God’s mercy.  Ephesians 2:4-6 tells us that it was, “God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him.”  Titus 3:5 tells us that, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”  Mercy is a characteristic of the wisdom from above which is, “First pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy” (James 3:17).

There is the mercy of granting forgiveness to those that wrong you, for it reflects the forgiveness that God grants us in Jesus Christ for our many trespasses against Him. We are to, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).  In fact, Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:7 that those who are merciful receive mercy, and in Matthew 18 that the person that will not show this mercy of forgiveness will be held accountable to God and will not be forgiven themselves.

But there is also the mercy of compassion given to those who are suffering from some affliction or sorrow.  Christians are to, “Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other” (Colossians 3:12-13).  This is the demonstration of love we are to have for one another. The Apostle John tells us that, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).  He then goes on in the next verse to apply this to everyday life asking, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17).  God’s love is not in such a person.  Jesus made this clear in the story of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 which was given in response to a question about who is my neighbor that God calls me to love.

The person with the gift of mercy goes beyond these general commands with a special sensitivity to those suffering and in sorrow.  They will notice what others miss and then seek to bring relief to the person.  It is the emotion of compassion put into practical action.

This gift may express itself in individuals in many different ways and to different degrees.  What one person with this gift can deal with someone else cannot.  Some people with this gift are drawn to those with medical problems and easily deal with those who have horrible conditions and diseases, yet they might have little compassion on those in jail.  Another might minister to those in jail, but they cannot handle blood and will faint if they go into a hospital.  Those with mercy might minister to the homeless, the lame, the sick, the mentally handicapped, orphans, widows, the lonely, those in despair, those emotionally distraught, those who are dying, those who are grieving, and those suffering from any of the other multitude of afflictions that affect mankind.

The actions they take can range from a kind word to motivating a major relief effort for victims of some catastrophe.  It could be simply holding someone’s hand along with a quiet prayer, or giving physical care to someone who cannot care for themselves.  The one with this gift does not have to ask how they can help, they see the needs and strive to meet them, and as Paul states here, they do so with cheerfulness.  Things may be tough.  There may be sadness.  But God is bigger than all of that, and the one with the gift of mercy points others to hope in God.  That is the important element in this gift, as it is with all gifts.  It is done in such a way that God will be glorified and/or believers will be helped to become more like Jesus Christ.

If you are a true Christian, then God has gifted you to serve Him.  It is up to you to discover your gift by trying different ministries that interest you and seeing what God will do through you.  Pray about what God would have you do, and then do it.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Spiritual Gifts, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

In today’s blog, we are going to pick up again in our study of the book of Romans.  We had been examining chapter 12 and the topic of Spiritual Gifts.  It is important that we remember the context in which Paul presents Spiritual Gifts within this book.  The context of Paul speaking about spiritual gifts is part of being a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.  The Christian is to “Think as to have sound judgement” and never “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” because the Christians’ very existence is centered on God’s glory and never on his own.  In addition, as we have already seen in our previous studies, the gift or gifts you have, the ministries you have, and the scope of those ministries are all according to God’s will for the purpose of the common good of the whole Body of Christ.  If you are a true Christian, then you are to serve God as a living sacrifice.  You have been crucified with Christ, and the person you were no longer lives, but Jesus Christ lives in you.  The life you now live is to be lived by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself up for you (cf. Galatians 2:20). If you are a true Christian, then God has baptized you into the Body of Christ at the time of your salvation from sin through faith in Jesus Christ.  God has also given you a spiritual gift or gifts by which you can effectively serve Him with joy.  Your particular gift or gifts, as well as your ministry and its scope, will differ from those of other Christians, but there is never a reason for either jealousy or pride, because every gift and ministry is needed for the Body of Christ to be healthy.  There are no insignificant people in the church.  Everyone, every gift, and ministry is important.

The Bible lists quite a few different spiritual gifts in several different passages.  Each of these passages include gifts that are not listed in the other passages.  In view of this, it is my belief that these lists only give examples of the kinds of spiritual gifts that God gives.  They simply give us some idea of how God desires to use His people in serving Him.  We are studying them so that you might get some ideas of how God might use you for His glory.  Keep in mind that most people do not know what their spiritual gift is until they start serving in an area and are then affirmed in it by other mature Christians.

We have already examined the gifts of prophecy, preaching, speaking, service or ministry, helps and teaching.  In each of these we have seen that God requires every Christian to serve Him in each of these areas to some extent, but there are those who are specially gifted to serve the Lord beyond what is generally commanded.  In the gifted area they demonstrate great effectiveness in glorifying God and helping other believers in their Christian walk.  All of us must at times serve the Lord outside our particular giftedness, but we become quickly aware of it because it can often be frustrating even if you can get the task done.  It can be like a right-handed person using their left hand for a task, or even worse, like trying to type using your elbows.  When you are serving in the Lord within your giftedness, there can still be a lot of work involved, but there is also a joy and a satisfaction is having the Lord use you.

The gifts of prophecy, preaching, and speaking are all related to declaring God’s message to others.  Recall that the root idea of Prophecy is to “bring forth into the light” and refers to someone who is “an proclaimer or forth-teller of the divine will.”  We often think of the prophet as the one that God used to reveal what would happen in the future, but actually the more fundamental aspect of this gift of prophecy is that of forthtelling, or proclaiming what God had said.  That is the meaning in the context of Romans 12:6. Those who were prophets that predicted the future had to meet God’s standard of 100% accuracy 100% of the time, or they were to be declared to be false prophets and put to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).

In 1 Timothy 2:7 Paul states that he was appointed to be a “preacher.”  Having the gift of prophecy and being a preacher are linked, because both are to herald or proclaim what God has said.  The gift of speaking also involves proclaiming what God has said, but is more general in nature.  A person may have this gift, but not be appointed to be a “preacher.”  Every Christian has been called by God to be “a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9), but those with these gifts have special abilities in proclaiming God to others.

The gift of “service” or “ministry,” and that of “helps” are related to each other.  The word “service” is a general term for service and literally refers to a table waiter.  Its general meaning refers service “manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name.”  The word “helps” has a root meaning of “a laying hold of” and came to mean “to aid, help” or “rendering assistance.”  The main difference between the gift of “helps” and “service” would seem to be in the more personal nature of “helps,” and “service” being more general in nature, though there is much overlap between the two.

Teaching is the gift of being able to transfer knowledge of spiritual things along with understanding so that the truths learned are applied to life.  All believers have a certain amount of responsibility in teaching others, but those with this particular gift have a special ability to do so.  This gift can be manifested in all sorts of ways with different kinds and ages of people and in different ministries ranging from not only speaking and writing, but also in music, art and drama.

In today’s blog we are going to continue our study by looking at the gifts mentioned in Romans 12:8, starting with exhortation.

Exhortation.

Paul says that those who exhort should exercise their gift accordingly in their exhortation.  “Exhortation,” comes from a root which means “to call alongside.”  This root idea has historically given the word several different meanings, but in the New Testament, it is usually used to mean either “beseech,” “exhort” or “comfort.” Context determines the meaning in a passage.

An example of this occurs here in Romans 12.  Paul begins this chapter with the verb form, “parakleo,” which is translated as “I beseech (urge).”  In the next two verses Paul calls his readers to be living sacrifices acceptable to God in light of what Jesus Christ has done for them.  In verse 8 Paul again uses “parakleo” as a description of the spiritual gift of “exhortation.”  The English word “exhortation” means to “urge or advise strongly,” it is to “seek earnestly to persuade” (Webster).  You could actually translate Romans 12:1 as, “I exhort you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God.”  The urging here is strong and could be considered pastoral exhortation to live according to the truth.

The idea of comfort comes from the words usage in such passages as John 14:26 and 15:26 in which the Holy Spirit is called the “comforter” (paraklatos), and 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 in which God is called the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction.  The same idea of comfort is expressed in 1 Thessalonians 4:8 in which the Thessalonians were told to “comfort one another with these words” referring to Paul’s revelation about the future hope we have that those who have died in Christ and those who are alive and remain will both meet Him
in the air at the rapture of the Church.

A common thread that runs through these various meanings as the word is used in the New Testament is their tie to the truth of God.  We urge people to know it; We exhort believers to live according to it; We are comforted by its promises.  The “gift of exhortation” would then include the ideas of advising, pleading, encouraging, warning, strengthening, and comforting people with the truths of the Word of God to the end that they might live according to it.  It is easy to see then that this gift can manifest itself in many different ways in different ministries and in conjunction with other gifts.

There are general commands for all Christians concerning their need to advise, plead, encourage, warn, strengthen, and comfort people, but there are also people whom God has gifted to be able to do these things in a very effective manner in helping others
become more like Christ.  Let’s see what Scripture says about the different ways in which Christians are to practice exhortation.  That will give us some idea of how this gift might be used as well as remind all of us what God desires from us, whether we have this particular gift or not.

As noted in 1 Corinthians 1:3-5, we are to “comfort” other believers who are going through some affliction with the same “comfort” we received from God when we had gone through some affliction.  Some things will bring comfort to us, such as Paul being “comforted” when Titus returned from Corinth and heard how well they had treated his co-worker (2 Corinthians 7:6-7), but that is a passive comfort.  More important is the active comfort we are to bring, such as the love of Philemon which also brought “comfort” to Paul’s heart (Philemon 1:7).  A person with this gift and the gift of mercy would not only perform acts of compassion on those who suffer, but would also be able to bring the truths of God to bear on the situation to bring comfort to their souls.  That is the idea of bringing to others the comfort by which God has comforted us in the midst of affliction.

  • The situation may be bad, the person might be in turmoil, confusion or pain, but the truths of God’s promises can bring peace, and that is comforting.  
  • You may feel lonely, but Jesus will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).  
  • You might feel overwhelmed by problems you are facing, but Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matthew 11:30), in addition, He ever lives to make intercession with the Father on your behalf (Hebrews 7:25).  
  • You may be in physical pain, but though your flesh and heart may fail, God remains the strength of your heart and your portion forever (Psalm 73:26).  
  • You may despair of the circumstances of our life in the here and now, but Jesus is preparing a place for you and He will come again to take you to live with Him in heaven forever (John 14:1-3).  
  • Fear may grip you, but perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18), and Jesus has demonstrated that perfect love for you when He took your sins upon Himself and died in your place while you were still His enemy.  In addition, He proved His power to forgive you and fulfill His promises to you when He rose from the dead.

The truths of God’s Word can bring comfort, and the person with this gift can do that effectively.

Another manifestation of this gift is in “encouragement.”  Paul and Silas did that in Acts 15:32 when they “encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.” It is easy for us to get discouraged in this life, for things often do not go the way that we would like and we personally fail, but the Word of God can encourage us to continue on. It can refresh our vision for the future and for the present so that we are uplifted to continue on in faithfully living for Him and serving Him.  All of us would like to succeed at what we do, but sometimes we define that according to the world’s standards of success.  The Scriptures remind us that what God views as success is simply faithfulness to Him (Luke 12:42-44; 1 Corinthians 4:2).  He wants us to keep our eyes on Him and have our values reflect Him, not those of this world (Matthew 6:33).  All of us are to encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11), but those with this gift are especially good at taking the Scriptures and invigorating the downhearted to live for God again.

This gift can also exhibit itself in the common interaction that is to occur as believers meet with one another.  Hebrews 10:24,25 tells that we are to “consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.”  This is work for most people because we have to give thought to this before-hand so that we are prepared when we get together with others, but those gifted in this area easily figure out ways of how to help others be involved in the love and good deeds that should be a normal part of the Christian’s life.

This gift can also reveal itself when confrontation needs to take place when a fellow believer stumbles into sin.  This confrontation is not done from an attitude of condemnation, but from one of pleading and warning as the sinning brother or sister is admonished and encouraged to forsake their sin and walk with Christ.  Paul had to confront and exhort the Corinthians because of the divisions and other sins they had allowed within their congregation (1 Corinthians 1:10), but his correction was born out of an attitude of love for them (1 Corinthians 4:2).  The Thessalonians had some people among them that were living undisciplined lives and acting as busybodies. Paul had to exhort them “in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread (2 Thessalonians 3:11).”  Now it is important to note here that while exhortation may accompany admonishment, they are not the same and there is not a spiritual gift of admonishment.

I am sure that many, if not most of you, have run into people that thought they had the gift of admonishment, God has not called out anyone to be “spiritual police” who are watching to see when you make a mistake so they can arrest you.  The leaders in the church, specifically the pastor, “watch over your souls” (Hebrews 13:17), but even they are not spiritual law enforcement officers.  The whole idea of law enforcement within the church is wrong.  Even church discipline is not done for purpose of catching law breakers and punishing them, but out of love for the sinner.  The desire is to correct and
restore the person back into a proper relationship with God and fellow believers.  Being caught in sin does bring Church discipline unless the person refuses to give up their sin by which they demonstrate that they do not love Jesus and therefore have no basis of fellowship with His followers.

The task of admonishing those who sin is confrontive and belongs to all Christians. Jesus told us in Matthew 18:15-17, “If your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.”  Paul tells Christians in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 that we are to, “admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.”  There is a greater responsibility in this for those who are mature, for Galatians 6:1 tells us, “Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Exhortation can be confrontive, but it is so from the standpoint of warning and pleading for change.  It takes the Word of God and uses it for reproof and correction with the goal of then encouraging and strengthening the person to walk with Christ.  Paul told Titus to “speak, exhort, and reprove with all authority” those under his care. We are still to do the same, and that authority is the Bible.  Those with a gift of exhortation in this manner are not only able to state clearly where a person may have stumbled into sin, but they can also communicate the need for change and their own heart to help them effect that change.  Again, this is something all Christians need to learn to do, but those with this gift are especially effective at it.  

Finally, I should point out that this gift is needed for some church leadership positions. Paul placed the requirement on the pastors that Titus was to appoint for the churches in Crete, including that they be able to, “Exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict.”  This closely parallels the requirement in 1 Timothy 3:2 that pastors be “able to teach,” but it emphasizes that such teaching cannot be academic in nature, but must also be motivational to applying what is taught in daily life.  The truths of God are not for mental exercise, but to be believed and applied to daily life.

All Christians need learn to exhort one another in different manners, but God has gifted some to be especially effective in this ministry.

Giving

The next spiritual gift in Paul’s list in Romans 12:8 is “giving.”  This is the gift that few people want to have for it goes against our own selfish nature.  Yet, what Jesus said is true.  It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).

To give is to share or impart from your resources for the benefit of another.  Paul says that those with this gift should practice it with liberality or generosity.  The root idea of is one of “singleness or simplicity.”  It is giving without self-serving motives.  John MacArthur describes this well saying this is someone who “gives of himself, not for himself.  He does not give for thanks or recognition, but for the sake of the one who receives his help and for the glory of God.”  Jesus rebuked the Pharisees because of their hypocritical practice of having a trumpet blown to call attention to themselves before giving alms because they wanted the honor of men.  Jesus said they had their full reward and would get nothing from God (Matthew 6:2-3).  Giving with liberality is not just generously, but with the desire to be honored by God without care of any honor from men.  Such giving is done in secret instead of with fanfare.  

Again, we find that all Christians are commanded to give, so this particular spiritual gift is simply the extension of the Biblical principles beyond what is normal.  For example, in 1 Timothy 5:17,18, Paul makes it clear that those pastors who rule well and work hard preaching and teaching should be considered worthy of double honor and be able to earn their living from their spiritual work.  Paul had also pointed this out in 1 Corinthians 9 that, even though he did not take personal advantage of this, it was right for him to expect to be able to “reap material things” from them because of they had “sowed spiritual things in them.”  That cannot happen if God’s people do not give.

In 2 Corinthians 9, Paul gives advance notice to the Corinthians that he is collecting money for the relief of the poor Christians in Jerusalem.  He wanted them to be prepared for he expected to receive something from them to help with this need.  They might not be as generous as the Macedonians who gave “beyond their ability” and even begged to be allowed to participate in the support of the poor saints, but Paul still expected them to give.

It often surprises people that Scripture states that a purpose of working is so that we will have something to give to those who have need.  Ephesians 4:28 states, “Let him who steals steal no longer; but rather let him labor, performing with his own hands what is good, in order that he may have something to share with him who has need.”  All Christians are to give as they purpose in their heart, not grudgingly or of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7).  There are also those who have the gift of giving and therefore they reflect the attitude of the Macedonians.

Perhaps this is a good place to note that the strength of this spiritual gift is not in the amount given, but in the sacrifice required and loving heart demonstrated by the act of giving.  This kind of giving reflects the heart that trusts God to meet their own needs even as God uses them to meet the needs of others.  Jesus pointed this out when He called the attention of His disciples to the widow who gave the two mites and said that it was more than the great amounts of money the wealthy had put in, because they gave out their surplus, but she gave all she had out of her poverty (Luke 21:2-3).  Paul reveals the spiritual encouragement that comes from such giving when he thanked the Philippians for their sacrificial giving on his behalf and called it a “fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:17-18).

While we most often we might think of this spiritual gift in terms of financial resources, it can be broader than that.  Paul said in Romans 1:11 that his desire was to come to the Romans that he might “impart” (give, share) to them some spiritual gift.  This giving may be expressed out of your finances, your material resources, or your spiritual resources.
The important aspect of this is that it is a giving out of your resources to meet the needs of others for the purpose of spiritual edification and God’s glory.

Giving can take place in a multitude of ways.  

  • It could be money to help someone else pay a bill.
  • It could bags of food or clothes to meet the physical needs of someone else, or even a tank of gas.
  • It could be providing a place for someone to stay, perhaps in your own home.
  • It could be giving your time or talent so that a project could be completed.
  • It could even be giving your blood or having your name on the organ donor list to provide extended life to someone injured or sick.

What ties all these together is that it is done for the glory of God.

Keep it firmly in mind that it is to be for God’s glory.  A cup of water given in Jesus’ name is both a physical and spiritual blessing, but the same cup of water without the reference to Christ brings no spiritual blessing.  Doing nice things is good, but unless it is for God’s glory, you are not serving God and you are not using a spiritual gift.

What is your spiritual gift?  You really can’t know unless you are using it.  Are you praying about how God might use you?  Use the list in the bulletin to stimulate your mind and heart on how God might use you in the current ministries of this church and in the ministries that could be started to reach this community for Christ if everyone was using their spiritual gift.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Spiritual Gifts, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

What do you call someone that has some body part that does not function properly or is missing?  Proper terms include “handicapped” or “disabled,” though some now consider those to be insensitive and politically incorrect language.  Such people tend to label the function that is impaired and say the person is “challenged” in that area.  For example, a person with poor eyesight is “visually challenged,” a person with poor hearing is “acoustically challenged,” and a person with a bad leg has a “mobility challenge.”

Over the last several blogs I have been pointing out to you the analogy that Paul makes in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 of the physical human body with the church, which is the spiritual Body of Jesus Christ.  And just as the physical body is handicapped when a body part is not functioning properly or is missing, so it is with the church when someone who is supposed to be part of it is not functioning properly or is missing altogether.  The Body of Christ is left handicapped, or to use more politically correct language, the church is left “ministry challenged.”  We cannot function the way we are supposed to and therefore cannot properly accomplish the ministries God has called us to do, if we can accomplish them at all.

It is for that reason that we will be taking a close examination of all the various spiritual gifts listed in not only Romans 12:6-8, but also in other New Testament passages.  We need to have an understanding of these various examples of gifts that God has given to His people and how we are to work together.

We begin today’s study in Romans 12 verse 3 where we read the following, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

The Bible teaches that the Christian is to “think as to have sound judgement” and never “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” because every Christian is part of the Body of Christ, and every part of that Body is needed for it to function properly.  Just as with the physical body, there are no worthless parts, so with the Body of Christ, there are no worthless members.  Just as with the physical body, there are no insignificant organs, so with the Body of Christ, there are no insignificant ministries.

Every gift and ministry are needed

For the body of Christ to be healthy.

If any body part is injured or no longer functioning properly, then the body is handicapped.  If those in the church are not using their God give ministry gift, then the whole Body is handicapped.  No one can be proud, because everyone is needed, and in some ways those whose ministries are done quietly with little or no public recognition are especially needed.

Another reason that all Christians are to be humble is because their spiritual gift, their ministry, and the effectiveness of that ministry are all up to God, not the individual.  As Paul stated in verse 6, each of us “have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.”  Paul is even more clear in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6 stating Verse 4, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.  And there are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord. and there are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all.” We can summarize these two passages by saying that God has gifted you to serve Him, but the gift or gifts given, the ministry that the gift(s) are used in, and the effectiveness of the gift(s) are according to the Lord’s will, not yours.  The Christian has no basis to boast about themselves and where they fit into the Body.  That is all according to God’s grace given to you.

And a final reason for the Christian to think with sound judgement concerning their place and functioning within the body of Christ is because of what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” Whatever gifts, ministries, and their effectiveness you have in serving the Lord are all for the purpose of the common good of the whole Body.  I know I mentioned this last yesterday, but it bears repeating.  There are no “manifestations of the Spirit” that are for your personal benefit, and keep in mind that “manifestations of the Spirit” here in 1 Corinthians 12 refers to any spiritual gift used in a godly manner reflecting the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23 – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self-control.  

The error in the Corinthian church

Is commonly repeated today

Because people do not

Keep that truth in focus.

That is why so many Charismatics fail to understand 1 Corinthians 14 and end up promoting the very thing that Paul was seeking to correct.  They had become proud and sought to use their gifts for the benefit of themselves instead of for the whole Body.  Let us always be humble and keep in mind that every gift and ministry is given for the benefit of the common good of the church, the Body of Christ, and never to feed our selfishness or pride.

There are many different gifts and ministries within the Body of Christ and those in turn will vary in their power or effectiveness all according to the grace of God in keeping with His will.  As I pointed out yesterday, there are several New Testament passages that list out different spiritual gifts including Romans 12:6-8. 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Timothy 2:7; and 1 Peter 4:11.  None of these lists are comprehensive in themselves.  Each of them lists gifts not mentioned in the other passages.  It is for that reason that I believe that each of these are only examples of the kinds of spiritual gifts that God gives.  I do not believe you have to know what your gift is in order to use it.  In fact, usually a person does not know what their gift or gifts might be until after they have been using them and are affirmed in that by other mature Christians.  They simply give us some idea of how God desires to use His people in serving Him and that is why we are taking the time to study them as we are.  I want you to think and pray about how God may have equipped you to serve Him.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS

A spiritual gift (“charismata” – literally “grace gift”) is the special way in which God enables you to serve Him beyond what is generally commanded.  This service is done with effectiveness and, I believe, also with joy.  I find that we often may need to serve the Lord outside our particular giftedness, and though we may be able to accomplish the task, it is usually with difficulty and sometimes frustration that we do it.  It would be like a right-handed person trying to write with their left hand, or even worse, trying to write with our toes.  With enough practice it can be done, but it is not easy.  When you are using your spiritual gifts, it is like writing with your dominant hand.  It can still be a lot of work, but it can be done with effectiveness, efficiency, and joy.

Prophecy.

Yesterday we looked at prophecy, which is the first gift listed in Romans 12:6.  It is also listed in 1 Corinthians 12:10 in the subcategory of gifts of faith.  There is also the office of “prophet” listed in Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28.  As we saw yesterday, the root idea of prophecy is to “bring forth into the light” and refers to someone who is “an proclaiming or forth-teller of the divine will.”

A prophet can also refer to someone who was used by God to reveal what would happen in the future.  Those who did that had to meet God’s standard of 100% accuracy 100% of the time, or they were to be declared to be false prophets and put to death (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).  This aspect of this gift is not in operation in our present age because its purposes have been fulfilled in the completion of the Bible.  There are those that claim to be able to reveal the future, but they do not meet the Deuteronomic standard of 100% accuracy 100% of the time.  They are part of the group of false teachers that both Peter (2 Peter 2:1) and Paul warns us about.

The more fundamental aspect of this gift of prophecy is that of forthtelling or proclaiming what God had said.  The prophet was one who was an interpreter in explaining God’s will.  This was true of the Old Testament prophets as well as the gift of prophecy in the New Testament, and it is still true today.  This is the gift that separates a religious speaker who speaks from man’s wisdom from the preacher that boldly declares God’s will based on what the Bible says.

Keep in mind that all Christians have a certain amount of responsibility in doing what someone who is called to be a preacher (1 Timothy 2:7) is to do to a greater degree. 1 Peter 2:9 tells that everyone who is a Christian has been called by God to be, “A people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”  Every believer is to proclaim God and when they do so, they are to speak “as it were, the utterances of God.”  We are to speak with all due respect and reverence for what God has said remembering that the Word of God is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart“ (Hebrews 4:12).  It is a powerful weapon by which we need not fear our adversaries.

Service.

The next gift is listed in Romans 12:7 and 1 Peter 4:11 as “service” or “ministry.”  This comes from “diakonian” which is a general term for service and literally refers to a table waiter and is used that way in Luke 10:40 and John 2:5, 9; 12:2.  This reflects the attitude that the Lord’s servant is to have in all their service regardless of its specific form.  A table waiter must be humble because they are present to enhance the dining experience of the one eating.  The focus is not on the waiter, but on the one they are serving.  The one who ministers must do likewise in their ministry.

The term as used here has its broadest meaning in referring to any act of service. This gifts has been describes as, “manifested in every sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name.”  There is an aspect of this that is required of every Christian for all Christians are to serve the Lord and each other in some capacity. In John 12:26 Jesus said, “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.”  In Ephesians 4:11-12 we find that there are various gifted men given to the church for the purpose of “equipping the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.”  Christian service is not doing just any good deed, but doing good for the welfare of others for the specific purposes of glorifying God, as Jesus said we were to do (Matthew 5:16), and helping other believers in their walk with Christ.

In many ways you could say that “service” is a broad gift in which many of the other gifts would be a subcategory.  In fact, Paul uses the same word in 1 Corinthians 12:5 to describe the ways in which the various gifts could express themselves.  Among the different gifts that are also specifically described as “service” or “ministry” are preaching Christ (2 Corinthians 4:1) and “giving” financially (2 Corinthians 9:1).  In Acts 6 we find that the duty given to the seven of making sure the widows were properly cared for is described as “serving.”

In Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8-13 a cognate of this word is used to designate and describe an office in the church, that of “deacons.”  In my view, 1 Timothy 3:11 refers to “deaconesses” of which Phoebe is specifically mentioned as being one (Romans 16:1). These are people that have matured in Christ so that they demonstrate certain godly characteristics that enable them to be given leadership in the various general ministries in the church.

While, all Christians are to serve the Lord and one another in some capacity, Paul’s distinguishes the “gift of service” in Romans 12:7 from the other gifts listed.  This means that while serving is a broad category under which other gifts are sometimes placed, there is also a specific gift of serving that is different from other gifts.  One example of this would be 1 Corinthians 16:15 where Paul commends the household of Stephanas because they had “devoted themselves for ministry to the saints.”  Those who have the “gift of service” are to devote themselves to that service without being either jealous of those with different gifts or proud about their own.  Such is to be true with each of the gifts.

What does this mean in practical application?  Every Christian is to have a humble attitude and serve one another considering others to be more important than themselves (Philippians 2:3).  Some are specifically gifted in the area of the ministry or service.  That could manifest itself in any sort of practical help that Christians can give one another in Jesus’ name.  It is important to stress that this is not just doing good deeds, for non-Christians do a lot of good deeds.  But a cup of water given without reference to Christ does not glorify God.  This gifts’ main manifestation will be that it will be done in a way to glorify God and will encourage other believers in their own walk with the Lord.  The one with this gift will be satisfied with the serving itself, even if they receive little or no personal recognition for it.

Some of the various ways that I have personally seen this gift exhibited include:

  • Those who joyfully clean the church facilities.
  • Others who take care of our property by fixing things, mowing the grass or making our landscape look nice.
  • Those who prepare meals for those in need.
  • Taking on some work project around the church, for another ministry, such as a missions project, or for another believer.
  • Fixing things that break.
  • Those who prepare for and/or clean up after one of our church fellowships.
  • Caring for someone else’s children, which includes working in the church nursery.
  • Setting up and taking down the outreach tent as well as handing out the cups of hot chocolate and water.
  • There are also those that prepare the float, costumes, and work with the puppeteers so all of that is done well.  
  • There are those that serve by working our sound system, copy tapes and CD’s, and others change our bulletin boards and Scripture signs.

There are a multitude of ways in which people can use their gifts of serving.  It is only limited by their imagination of how they can glorify in the Lord in what they do and encourage others in their walk with Christ.

Helps.

Similar to “service” is the gift of “helps” listed in 1 Corinthians 12:28.  The word “heps” is from the term “antilêmpsis” which has a root meaning of “a laying hold of” and came to mean “to aid, help” or “rendering assistance.”  The main difference between the gift of “helps” and “service” would seem to be in the personal nature of the ministry given. The gift of “helps” is often specifically associated with rendering assistance to those who are weak.  In Acts 20:35 Paul is addressing the Ephesian elders and refers to his own example in his charge to them to “help the weak.”  In 1 Thessalonians 5:14 Paul includes “help the weak’ as part of his concluding general commands to all believers. Every believer has a responsibility in helping one another as needs might arise, but those with this gift have greater ability and desire to be involved in this particular type of ministry.

While there would be much overlap between the two gifts, “service” would be the broader category under which helps would be more specific to helping a person with something pertaining to them personally as opposed to doing something more general. Perhaps this is making too much distinction between the two, but in my own mind, service is more “task oriented” and helps is more “people oriented.”  A person with the “gift of helps” would take on a task with more of the idea of assisting the other person rather than of just doing the task itself.  For example, a person with the “gift of service” might clean the church simply because it is a needed task to be done for the good of the whole Body and glorifying God by taking proper care of the facilities He has entrusted to us.  A person with the “gift of helps” might clean someone’s house because they desire to show brotherly love and glorify God by assisting their friend in completing the task they are doing.  Again, there would be a lot of overlap between the two gifts and it might often be very difficult to make any distinction.

How can people help each other?  It would include any of the things I said earlier regarding service as well as getting involved in something just to assist another believer.  Again, the variety of ways is only limited by the person’s imagination of how they can glorify the Lord in what they do and encourage others in their walk with Christ. How could you help another believer?

Teaching.

“Teaching” is the next gift listed in Romans 12:7.  “Teaching” is the God given ability to impart spiritual truths to others.  The word here is from “didasko” from which we get our word “didactic.”  However, this is not the didactic impartation of knowledge so prevalent in our school systems in which the students learn many facts, but often little about how to transfer those facts to life.  Biblical teaching is the transfer of knowledge along with understanding so that the truths learned are applied to life.

All believers have a certain amount of responsibility in teaching others, both Christians and non-Christians.  Fathers are to diligently teach their children about God (Deuteronomy 6:7) and raise them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Children are not to forsake their mother’s teaching (Proverbs 1:8). Older women are to be godly in their behavior and teach what is good so that they might encourage the young women to love their husbands and children (Titus 2:3-4).  As already mentioned, all Christians are to, “proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).  We are also bound by the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”  Those who are more mature are to be teaching those who are less mature while at the same time learning from those who are more mature than themselves.  The result is that the whole Body grows and matures in the unity faith (Ephesians 4:12ff).  Who are you teaching and who is teaching you?

There is also the specific “gift of teaching” listed in Romans 12:7 by which God uses particular people to impart to other people knowledge of Himself and understanding of how He wants His followers to live.  This gift can manifest itself in many different ministries.  This gift might be used in one individual only in personal situations, while in another only in small groups, while another might be able to teach multitudes.  One individual might only be able to teach young children, another only teens, and another only adults, while yet still another can teach any age group.  The kind of ministry the teaching is manifested in can also vary.  Most of the time it is through speaking, but it can also be manifested in writing, music, art, and drama.

Paul did a lot of speaking, but his writing has taught immeasurably more people than his speaking ever did.  Most of us are probably not even aware how much we learn through music, but it can be a very effective means of teaching.  That is the key reason that the theology and philosophy taught in a song is much more important than its style.  Yet, too often people tend to choose the music they will listen to based on style instead of content.  Even in the church a lot of songs and hymns are sung based on style without much thought to the heretical doctrine it teaches.  Drama also teaches. Those who are discerning realize how much we can be negatively affected by drama, but drama can also be used to impart wonderful spiritual truths.  These same things are also true of art. Who here has not only been moved emotionally, but also taught something through an artist’s rendition of some Biblical event or truth?  Drawings and diagrams of such things as the Tabernacle and the Temple add a lot to our understanding of them and the magnificence of the God who was worshiped within them.  

Perhaps you have the gift of teaching?  If so, how are you using it?  And more importantly, are you being careful to make sure that you are imparting the truths of God and not your own musings.

Again, the “gift of teaching” is not about being able to just impart information and get other people to believe you.  Many secular teachers can do that, and they are taking a lot of people to Hell with them.  The “gift of teaching” is about imparting the truth of the Word of God so that the person believes and follows God.  Let me stress that last part, they teach so that the person follows God.  A good teacher does not encourage or allow people to cultically follow them.  That is the mark of a false teacher.  A person with the Biblical “gift of teaching” keeps pointing their followers to Christ even as Paul did in 1 Corinthians 11:1 saying, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”

The gift of teaching is of critical importance to the health of the church.  In 1 Corinthians 12:28 Paul lists some who have the “gift of teaching” that are also identified as having the office of teacher within the church, and he states that they are the third most important office in the church.  Only the offices of apostles and prophets are of greater importance because they are the ones that laid the foundation of the Word of God upon which the church is built (Ephesians 2:20).  Only those who have this gift are to hold spiritual leadership positions in the church.  Pastors are required to be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2).  Titus 1:7 expands on this requirement saying that an overseer/pastor must hold “fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” The pastor must be able to handle both the positive and negative aspects of teaching about God and His will for man.  From the positive side he must be able to “exhort in sound doctrine” those who want to learn.  At the same time, from the negative side, he must know the truth so well that he can refute those who have departed from the truth and so contradict it with false teaching.  In Ephesians 4:11 Paul expresses the requirement for the pastor to be able to teach by joining the office of teacher with that of pastor.  The term “pastor” comes from the Latin word for “shepherd.” The pastor is to “shepherd” his flock (1 Peter 5:1-2).  The term “pastor” simply describes the work that a “bishop, elder, shepherd, and overseer” does.  They are the same office.

The “gift of teaching” is also vital to the continuation of the church.  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul told Timothy, “And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.” Paul taught Timothy, and Timothy was in turn to teach faithful men who would in turn teach other faithful men, and this is to continue until the Lord’s return.  Without the “gift of teaching,” this plan could not continue and the church would die.  The church always has been and continues to be one generation away from extinction, but God always calls and equips His people to serve Him, therefore, the church will continue until Jesus returns for her.

This pastor/teacher plans to continue . . .

To glorify God by leading our church family

To make disciples of Jesus Christ until He returns,

And that can happen because God

Has equipped His people to serve Him.  

The only question is are you serving the Lord with the gifts He has given you?  If not, you leave the rest of the Body handicapped.  As a new year approaches, it is a good time to resolve to either continue to use your spiritual gifts or begin to use them and see what great things God will do in 2021 and beyond.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Spiritual Gifts, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

This morning we continue our study of the nature of the church and begin a study of spiritual gifts.  In Romans chapter 12 and verses three to eight we read the following, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.  For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.”

Recall from our study a couple of days ago, that the reason that we need to “think as to have sound judgement” of ourselves and that no one should “think more highly of himself than he ought to think” is directly related to the fact that every Christian is part of the Body of Christ, and every part of that Body is needed for it to function properly.  Just as with the physical body, there are no worthless parts, so with the Body of Christ, there are no worthless members.  Just as with the physical body, there are no insignificant organs, so with the Body of Christ, there are no insignificant ministries.  This does not mean that the physical body cannot live without certain body parts, for when any body part is injured or no longer functioning, the body is crippled.  So it is with the Body of Christ, every gift and ministry are needed for the body to be healthy.

People now are no different now than they were at the time Paul was writing his letters. People still tend to think of certain gifts as more important than others resulting in either pride if they have them, or discouragement or jealousy if they do not.  That is why it is so important to clearly understand and live according to what Paul has explained both here in Romans 12 and in 1 Corinthians 12 about the functioning of the Body of Christ.

Humility is demanded of every Christian because none of us became part of the Body of Christ based on our own merit or abilities.  

It was God Himself

In His great mercy

That redeemed you

And made you

Part of this Body.

Every person is born spiritually dead and by nature are “children of wrath” as well as “slaves to sin” (Ephesians 2:3; Romans 6). 

  • Salvation comes when God in His great love makes us alive together with Christ and adopts us as His children (Ephesians 2; 1 John 3:1).  
  • We become aliens to this world (1 Peter 2:11), and a process of complete transformation begins.
  • We are made into new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17) and transferred from Satan’s realm into Christ’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).  
  • We develop new desires, attitudes, and actions as our minds are renewed (Romans 12:2).
  • It is God in His grace that brings us into the fellowship of the saints and makes us part of the body of Christ.  
  • God is also the one that equips us to serve Him, so there is no basis on which the Christian can be proud or boastful in Himself.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us directly that, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  The gifts, ministry, and effectiveness of that ministry are according to God’s own will for His own purposes.  Let’s look at 1 Corinthians 12 and look at verses 4-6.

SPIRITUAL GIFTS

Their Origin

Verse 4 says, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit is the same for all Christians, but He gives different gifts to different people.  Every Christian is given a spiritual gift or gifts by which they are to serve the Lord.  There are all sorts of spiritual gifts, which we will look at in a few minutes, but whatever gift it may be, it came by the Spirit.

Verse 5 states, “There are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord.”  The Lord is the same for all Christians, but He will use those different gifts in different Christians in a variety of ministries as He chooses.  To use the gift of exhortation as example, it could be used in different age groups, in different settings such as private, public, church, school, hospital, etc., through different means such as preaching, teaching, personal counseling, etc., and through different formats such as speaking, singing, writing, drama, art, etc.

Verse 6 says, “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all.”  God is the same for all Christians, but the effectiveness of those different gifts used in different ministries will also be different – ACCORDING TO GOD.  A person who has the gift of exhortation that operates though a ministry of music may use it with just a few people at a Bible Study or with more people at a church services, or it could
be used regionally, nationally or even internationally.

Paul makes the same basic point in a very succinct manner at the beginning of Romans 12:6 when he says, “And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.”  By God’s grace, each Christian receives gifts by which they are to serve Him.  The gifts that each believer has are different from the gifts that other believers have according to God’s grace in giving the particular gifts to the particular Christian.  We can summarize these two passages by saying that . . .

God has gifted you to serve Him,

But the gift or gifts given,

The ministry that the gift(s)

Are used in, and the effectiveness

Of the gift(s) are according

To the Lord’s will, not yours.

Their Purpose.

The purpose of God giving these spiritual gifts and ministries to you is stated clearly in verse 7, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. So whatever these “manifestations of the Spirit” might be, their purpose is “For the common good.”  That is an extremely important point that must never be lost.  The error
in the Corinthian church is commonly repeated today because people do not keep that truth in focus . . .

There are no “manifestations of the Spirit”

That are for your personal benefit

Whether that be spiritually,

Physically, or even financially.

Whatever personal benefit

You receive for your gift will be

Directly related to it being

“For the common good

Of the whole Body.

That even includes my gifts in pastoring and teaching.  They are not for my personal benefit, but for that of the common good of the whole Body.  My personal benefit in being able to earn my living through these gifts is directly related to using them for the common good of the whole Body.  If I did not do so, then even that personal benefit would be and should be immediately lost.

Their Manifestation.

What are these “manifestations of the Spirit,” these outward evidences of the Spirit’s presence?  In Galatians 5 Paul tells us that the fruit of the Spirit is the evidence of the Spirit’s presence in a person’s life.  The fruit of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  In the 1 Corinthians 12 text, the evidence is said to be the gift(s) given by the Spirit so that God’s children can serve Him and thereby benefit the whole body.

Which gift manifests the Holy Spirit in a person’s life?  Pentacostal and Charismatic doctrine erroneously teach it is the particular gift of speaking in an unknown tongue. However, the text in 1 Corinthians 12 is clear that it is any gift.  I will add that any so called “gift” that is not displayed along with the fruit of the Spirit cannot be considered evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence.

Back in verse 1, Paul introduced this topic in response to some questions the Corinthians had.  Paul states, “Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant.”  Paul is explaining to them about the “pneumatikon”“the spiritual things.”  The context lets us know that spiritual gifts are part of these spiritual things (which is why your Bible has “gifts” in italics, for it is not in the text, but implied).  Paul will talk about this subject of spiritual things in chapters 12, 13 and 14  and describe what they are, how they come, how they fit in the body, and the spiritual realities that are more important than the particular gifts, and how they are to operate in the body. Today we are simply examining what they are and how they fit together.

In 1 Corinthians 12:2-3 Paul reminds them of their past in paganism and how they came to Christ.  In verses 4, 5, and 6 He tells them that the gifts, ministries, and ability to serve the Lord all come from God according to His will.  Then in verse 7, as we have already pointed out, Paul reminds them that all of this is done for the common good of the whole Body.  I cannot stress this enough, and so I will stress it again.

Any gift used in any ministry

With any effect is a

Manifestation of the Spirit,

And its purpose is

For the common good

Of the whole Body.

There are no insignificant gifts.  There are no insignificant ministries.  There are no insignificant people in the church.  

Every person, every gift, and every ministry is needed

In order for the body to be healthy and carry out

Its God given purposes of worshiping God,

Caring for one another, building each other up,

And declaring the message of salvation from sin by

God’s grace through faith in the Lord Jesus.

The Different Gifts.

What are these spiritual gifts?  Romans 12:6-8 mentions some as we read earlier.  1 Corinthians 12:8-10 mention some more.  Then there is a scattering of others mentioned or implied here and there throughout the Bible.  Even in 1 Corinthians 12 there are two gifts (“helps” and “administration”) and two offices (“Apostles” and “teachers”) mentioned at the end of the chapter in verse 28 that Paul did not mention in his first listing of gifts in verses 8-10.  Because there is no extensive listing of all the various gifts in any one place, but instead they are scattered around the Bible, I do not believe the Holy Spirit ever intended to give us an exhaustive list of all His gifts.  The gifts mentioned are simply examples so that the point can be made that God has equipped us, and we are to serve Him.  

The first thing to remember about any of these gifts is that they are supernaturally derived.  Each is given by the Holy Spirit.  They may or may not be related to natural talents.  A spiritual gift may use a natural talent or it may function where there is not natural talent or skill, and a person with a natural skill may not have the corresponding spiritual gift.  Spiritual gifts are for the common good of the Body, they are given so that God can be glorified.

Let me use the gift of “teaching” as an example of this.  A person may be both skilled as a teacher in the natural sense and have the spiritual gift of teaching in which case the natural skill is accentuated into being used for God’s purposes.  A person could be a great teacher in the natural sense but not have the spiritual gift of teaching in which case they may be great at math, English, history, or whatever else, but they are not able to impart spiritual truths.  At the same time someone may be considered inept according to normal teaching standards and yet be used of God mightily in imparting spiritual truths to others.

Spiritual gifts may or may not have any connection with natural abilities or acquired skills.  The key question in determining a spiritual gifts is . . .

Is God using you in that area?

What are these gifts (“charismata” – charismata – literally “grace gift”)?  Again, I do not believe the Bible give an exhaustive list, but as examples let’s examine some of the ones that are mentioned.  Keep in mind that a person may have several in all sorts of mixtures.  Let’s start in Romans 12:6-8 . . ..

THE GIFT OF PROPHECY.

Prophecy is the first gift listed in Romans 12:6.  The root idea of the word is to “bring forth into the light” and refers to someone who is “an interpreter or forth-teller of the divine will.” Paul states that the one with this gift is to use it, “According to the proportion of his faith.”  Prophecy is also listed in 1 Corinthians 12:10 in the subcategory of gifts of faith.  There is also the office of “prophet” listed in Ephesians 4:11 and 1 Corinthians 12:28.  Paul states in the later passage that prophets are the second gift following behind Apostles in importance.  

Foretelling.

There are two aspects to the gift of prophecy.  First, there is the aspect of foretelling in which God reveals something that is going to happen in the future.  The word “prophecy” is used to describe this because revealing the future is bringing what is hidden in the darkness of the future into to the light of the present even before it happens.  This is what usually comes to mind when we read of an Old Testament Prophets such as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zechariah, Joel, Amos, Micah, etc.  God had very clear and definite requirements of these prophets and their prophecies.  They had to be one hundred percent (100%) accurate.  If anything in their prophecy failed to come true, then they were to be judged a false prophet and stoned.  This standard was set up so that the people would not be fooled by false prophets into believing lies.  In Deuteronomy:20-22 God says, “But the prophet who shall speak a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he shall speak in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.  And you may say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’  When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken.  The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.”

Be aware that there are those around today that claim to be prophets or to have received some prophecy in the sense of predicting the future, but they do not meet God’s standard of one hundred percent (100%) accuracy 100% of the time.  You do not need to be afraid or intimidated by them.  You can boldly stand up to them and call them what they are – false prophets.  They are part of the group of false teachers that both Peter (2 Peter 2:1) and Paul warn us about.

As we move into the New Testament, we find that the gift of prophecy was largely apostolic in nature, for it was something often associated with the Apostles, but there were others beside them that are referenced as having it.  Included in this list are Agabus who predicted a famine in Judea during the reign of Emperor Claudius (Acts 11:28) and later foretold of Paul’s arrest and imprisonment 21:10).  Others prophets are referred to in Acts 11:27 and 13:1, but they are not specifically named.  Those with this gift were important in the early church, but they were not as important as the Old Testament Prophets or the New Testament Apostles who laid the foundation of God’s
revelation that was written down in the Scriptures (Ephesians 2:20). Their prophecies were to be judged (1 Corinthians 14:29), and they could not always give the prophecies interpretation or application (Acts 21:4, 11-14).

Forth-telling.

The more fundamental aspect of this gift of prophecy is that of forthtelling, or proclaiming what God had said.  The prophet was one who was an interpreter in explaining God’s will.  This was true of the Old Testament prophets as well as the gift of prophecy in the New Testament.  Consider that so much of what the Old Testament prophets said was proclaiming what God had already said or declaring God’s displeasure and warning about something someone had done.  In the New Testament, Paul specifically connects prophecy to edification, exhortation, and consolation of the church in 1 Corinthians 14.  Even in Paul’s own writings, though there are predictive elements in some of them (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11 and 2 Thessalonians 2 for example), most of what he writes is just repeating and applying the truths that God had already revealed.  The New Testament prophets Judas and Silas mentioned in Acts 15:32 are not recorded as making any predictions of the future, but instead they “encouraged and strengthened the brethren with a lengthy message.”

It is in this second sense that the gift of prophecy is at work in the present age.  This would be the gift that enables preachers to be able to speak with the unction of “thus saith the Lord,” (and perhaps in view of what Acts 15:32 says about Judas and Silas, it might also enable them to be long-winded in their preaching, though in this case it would also mean they were saying something worth hearing).  There are plenty of people that can speak, some for even a long time, but it is the gift of prophecy that separates those who are declaring God’s will from those who are just long-winded religious speakers.

The gift of prophecy would be a gift that those who preach would need because a large portion of what they are supposed to do is to expose and explain the Scriptures.  They are to study the Bible and then declare the truths of God’s revelation to people.  They are to bring to light what seems hidden to most people.  

Preacher.

Related to the gift of prophecy is God appointing some to be a “preacher” as Paul states he was in 1 Timothy 2:7.  The word “preacher” here, refers to “a herald or messenger vested with public authority, who conveyed the official messages of kings, magistrates, princes, military commanders, or who gave a public summons or demand, and performed various other duties.  In the New Testament, God’s ambassador who herald or proclaimer of the divine Word.”  Those with the gift of prophecy are not to keep to themselves, they are to proclaim it to others, which we call preaching.

Now in saying this, we must also keep in mind that preaching takes place in all sorts of different contexts and in different degrees.  There are those, like myself, that preach week by week in one location to the same congregation.  Others have itinerant ministries in which they speak to different groups as they have opportunity.  Some preachers speak to small groups, some to large groups, and some to vast multitudes. Some preachers rarely venture out of a church context while others regularly speak outside a local church context.  Some preacher can earn their living by preaching and many, many others do not.  All that to say this.  Do not stereotype the gift of prophecy and the ministry of preaching into thinking it is just referring to people such as myself.  I have no doubts that some of you also have these gifts though they are used in different settings.

Speaking.

In keeping with that idea, let me point out that the apostle Peter uses the more general term, “speaks” to describe this in 1 Peter 4:10,11.  He also makes it clear in that passage that the authority and power are in the message, not the messenger, and that the purpose of all gifts are the glory of God.  Starting in verse 10, Peter says, “As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.  Whoever speaks, let him speak, as it were, the utterances of God; whoever serves, let him do so as by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

To whatever degree a person may or may not have the gift of prophecy or be appointed by God to the specific calling of being a “preacher,” all who speak on the basis of God’s Word, for whatever reason and on whatever occasion, need to do so with the understanding that the Bible is the Word of God.  They should, therefore, speak with all due respect and show reverence for what God has said.  We are never to use the Bible in a flippant manner and we should strive to make sure we never use its sayings as cliches that have little meaning left.  In addition, the Word of God is, as Hebrews 4:12 says, “Living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  It is a powerful weapon by which we need not fear our adversaries.

God has given some people the specific gift of prophecy and called some to be “preachers,” but neither of those have to be specifically true of you in order to use the Word of God and speak His truths to others.  In fact, to one degree or another, He requires that of all of us as His witnesses.  Each of us who is a Christian has been called by God to be “a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).  Parents, you have the responsibility of speaking the Word of God and applying its truths to your children.

The Proportion of Faith.

Going back to Romans 12:6 we find that the person with the gift of prophecy is to use it “according to the proportion of his faith.”  There are two possibilities of what Paul is referring to by this phrase. The first is that is referring to the Gospel message as “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints”” (Jude 3).  This sense cannot be objected to because to present something other than the clear and unadulterated Gospel is crucial otherwise it is a false Gospel that brings God’s curse (Galatians 1:6ff).
However, as A.T. Robertson well points out, the context here calls for the subjective meaning of faith.  The person with this gift must speak to the fulness of their understanding of the Gospel according to the individual proportion of faith that God has given to them.

In other words, there is variation as to the depth of understanding of the will of God that a person will have as they study the Bible.  Each one must give their best to both understanding what God has revealed and then faithfully declaring those truths.  That sense is keeping with the rest of the passage.  Every person is to use their gift to the best of their ability whatever that gift may be.  There is not to be any slacking off in using your gift just because God has equipped you to do something better than others with the same or similar gifts.  

That is a good thought on which to end this morning’s message.  God has equipped every believer to serve Him.  Each of us has different gifts, different ministries, and different scopes in those ministries.  As we shall see in our continuing study of spiritual gifts in the days to come, not having a particular gift does not exclude you from serving God in a particular area, for there are general commands related to the different gifts that apply to all Christians.  Our giftedness is rather related to the special way in which God will use us beyond His general commands to us.

Are you seeking to serve God to the best of your ability as you strive to live a holy life?  If not, then you are not using your gifts and you are not glorifying Him the way that you should, but that can easily change as you turn from being self-centered and selfish into being God centered and a servant.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

The Functioning Of The Body Of Christ

Grace For The Journey

In our study of Romans yesterday, we looked at the foundational principle that is to guide us in our relationships with one another in the church.  In fact . . .

It is the foundational principle

That should also guide us

In our relationship God

And all other people.

Paul says in Romans 12:3, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”

As I pointed out yesterday, this is not an option for the Christian for it is a command given on the basis of Paul’s authority as an apostle.  The Christian is to think rightly of himself and not to become proud.  At the same time, the Christian is to boldly step out to do whatever God asks because of a confidence that God can and will work through him or her to accomplish His will.

Sound judgement in evaluating my self-worth comes in recognition that man has value only as a result of being made in the image of God for the purpose of God’s glory.  

Proper self-esteem is based in knowing that

Though I am a sinner and deserving nothing

But God’s eternal condemnation, God extended

His love to me in mercy and grace to redeem me

From my sins through Jesus Christ’s atonement for my sin.

He then graciously imputed Jesus’ righteousness to me

On the basis of faith in Him, and has made me part

Of His family and Christ’s body, the church.

Through His Holy Spirit he has gifted me to serve Him,

And in doing so, I fulfill His will and bring glory to His name.

I have no other value except in that.

That is the reason that God created me.

Therefore if I want to have greater value,

Then I must be faithful to fulfilling God’s will

For my life and bring Him the maximum glory

That I can.  I step forward to use my gifts

In confidence that God will fulfill His promises

And enable me to serve Him to my maximum capacity.

Paul’s command here is set in the context of having sound judgement regarding how you are to regard yourself as part of the church, the body of Christ.  Paul says in verses 4 and 5, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”

In the coming days we will look at the issue of Spiritual gifts, including a study of the particular gifts mentioned in the Bible so that we might better understand how God may have equipped us and how to use those particular gifts.  But for today, I want us to concentrate on understanding what the church is, and in particular, what it means that every Christian is part of the Body of Christ.

There are many metaphors used in the Scriptures to try and describe the Church.  The word “church” is from the Greek, ekkl’sia, and means “called out ones.”  The church is that group of people that God has called out from all people to Himself.  Let’s look at some of the metaphors used to describe the church.

#1. The Temple of God.  The analogy of a building used for the worship of God is used by both Paul and Peter.  Paul says in Ephesians 2:19-22, “So then you are no longer strangers  and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together is growing into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”  The Bible says in 1 Peter 2:5, “You also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

This metaphor describes the Church as a building, the Temple of God, which is built to worship God.  Its cornerstone is Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:10-11), and its foundation the Apostles and Prophets who communicated to the us the doctrines of God.

We are the “living stones” of the building.  The text says we are the “lithos” or “worked stones.”  These would be stones chiseled to a certain shape to fulfill a certain purpose.
We are then “fitted together” to form the building.  We are not just any old stones taken from whereever and piled on top of each other.  We were carefully chosen and crafted to be joined to other stones to build a living, growing building.

The purpose of this building is to be a “holy temple in the Lord,” “being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” 

We exist to bring glory and honor to God.  

We exist to serve Him and not ourselves.

When people look at us, the church,

They should see us as a community

Where the Spirit of God dwells and

The worship of God takes place.

If each of us is fulfilling our role, we will inspire others to come and worship with us.  If we are not, we will be unstable and others will be hesitant to join us lest the building collapses on them.

#2. A Royal Priesthood – The metaphor that we are a royal priesthood flows out of the metaphor that we are the Temple of God.  Peter used the analogy of the church being a “spiritual house” in 1 Peter 2:5.  In verse 9 Peter adds, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” 

God called us to

Himself in salvation

For a specific reason

And it was not so

That we would escape hell

And live happily ever after.  

Escape of hell is a

By-product of salvation,

Not its purpose.

He saved us so that

We would be His own people.  

People who by His mercy

Had been given light to

Receive God’s own excellencies.

Though Christians come from every race we are made into one people, God’s own people.  Just as Israel was chosen and set apart from among all the nations to be His own, and they still are, we are also chosen out from all nations to be grafted in (Romans 11) as God’s own people.  Our purpose is to be a “holy nation,” and a “royal priesthood.” It becomes incumbent on us then to fulfill that which we were chosen to do.

What is the function of a priest?  First, to worship God.  As verse 5 says, we are to “offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”  Romans 12:1 says we are to be “living sacrifices.”   The other function of a priest is to be a mediator between man and God.  We are to bring those who are still in the darkness into the light by proclaiming the good news of Lord Jesus Christ to them.

These two metaphors speak to the purpose of the church in the worship of God and evangelism of the lost.  The next metaphor speaks of our relationship to Christ.

#3. The Bride Of Christ.  This analogy is referred to in several different passages in several different manners.  It is in a sense the continuation of the metaphor used of God and Israel in which Israel is portrayed as being God’s wife.  In Revelation 19:7-10 the account is given of the marriage of the Lamb and the Bride which is Christ and the Church.  Other passages also infer the Bridal analogy.  In Ephesians 5 Paul speaks of the relationship that a man and woman are to have in marriage.  The groom is to love his wife “just as Christ also loved the church.”  In verse 32 he adds, “This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”  The Bride’s response is found in verse 24, “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives to their husbands in everything.”  We are to respond to Christ in that way.  We are to be subject to Him, and that submission is easy because we know that He loves us and is looking out for our best interest.  Jesus is certainly fulfilling His role as the groom, but how are we doing in our role as His bride?  Do you bring honor to your beloved Savior by your behavior toward Him?

#4. Miscellaneous Metaphors.  There are several other metaphors used of the church.

  • In John 15 and Romans 11 an agricultural analogy is used.  
  • In John 15 we are branches which draw our lives from the vine.
  • In Romans 11 we are wild olive branches grafted into the cultivated Olive tree of Israel.

We draw our lives from Christ.  Without Him we perish.  Feeling shriveled up as a Christian?  Maybe you had better check to make sure you are drawing your life from Christ and not some other source.

  • Another metaphor is that of Shepherd and sheep.  

Jesus is referenced as a shepherd (John 10:11) and those who believe in Him are called His flock (1 Peter 5:2).  This gives us some understanding of the nature of believers and the relationship the church has with its leaders.  Shepherds lead, feed, guard, and protect.  Paul charged the elders at Ephesus to shepherd the flock that “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,” (Acts 20:28).  Peter says the same thing in 1 Peter 5:2, “shepherd the flock of God among you.”  The term “pastor” (Ephesians 4:11) is simply the Latin word for “shepherd.”  The church is seen as sheep who need shepherds.  Christ is the chief shepherd (John 10:4), and He has given the flock undershepherds, elders, or pastors to carry out His work among the sheep.

Now let’s turn our attention to what is the most significant metaphor in describing the nature of the church, especially in how it functions.  It describes not only the relationship of the church to Christ, but also of individuals within the church to one another and how they all work together.

#5. The Body Of Christ.  This analogy is used by the Apostle Paul in four New Testament books (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 1 and 4, Colossians 1 and 2).  In Colossians 1:18, Paul simply points out that Jesus Christ is “head of the body, the church.”  In Colossians 2:19 he adds that Christ is the head that supplies what the body needs for it to grow, and that growth is from God.  Interesting to footnote here that even in biology, the hormone that stimulates growth comes from the pituitary gland which is
located in the head!

Here in Romans 12:4-5 Paul simply says, “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”  That is, a body is made up of many individual parts that all fit together.

So too is the body of Christ which is made up of many different parts which all fit together.  Paul goes on to describe some of the spiritual gifts which fit together to make up the body of Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul gives the greatest explanation of this body analogy.  He starts in 1-7 stating that all spiritual gifts, the ministries in which they are used, and their impact on people are all given by God according to His own will.

Verse 4 says, “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.”  The Holy Spirit is the same for all Christians, but He gives different gifts given to different people.  Every Christian is given a spiritual gift or gifts by which they are to serve the Lord.  There are all sorts of spiritual gifts including teaching, administering, helping, showing mercy, giving, exhorting, leading and many more.

Verse 5 states, “There are varieties of ministries, but the same Lord.”  The Lord is the same for all Christians, but He will use those different gifts in different Christians in a variety of ministries as He chooses.  To use the gift of teaching as an example, there are many ministries in which the people who have this gift use it.  It could be used in some specific ages – children, youth or adults. Or in different settings – Worship services, Sunday School, Mid-week program, home Bible studies, prisons, hospitals, or other outreach efforts.  It can be used in different formats – preaching, interactive discussion, storytelling, drama, music, puppets, art, and writing.

Verse 6 says, “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all.”  God is the same for all Christians, but the effectiveness of those different gifts used in different ministries will also be different – ACCORDING TO GOD.  My gift of teaching used in preaching is used by God for all of you.  Others of you here use your gift of teaching in a small group, or maybe just one to one in discipleship.  There are also those like John MacArthur, Charles Stanley, Chuck Swindoll, David Jeremiah, etc. whose gift of teaching is used by God on a national or even international scale.

The bottom line is that

God has gifted you

To serve Him,

But the gift given,

The ministry that the

Gift(s) is used in, and

The effectiveness of the gift

Is up to the Lord, not you.

Verse 11 states it, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things distributing to each one individually just as He wills.”

In verses 8-11, Paul describes some of the gifts given by the Spirit.  We will be going into detail about all the gifts in a few days, but for now let’s look at the description of church Paul gives in the rest of the chapter.  

Starting in verse 12, Paul stresses the necessity of all the parts of the body of Christ working in harmony with one another.  This is the same thing he said in Romans 12:4-5. Verse 12 says, “For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ.”

The analogy of a body is a fitting description of the Church.  We all easily recognize that the body is both diverse and unified.  The body has all sorts of parts to it – arms & legs, hands & feet, a waist, a chest and a head with eyes, ears, nose and mouth.  Yet all of these parts together make up one entity, a body.

The church is the visible manifestation of Christ in the world.  The church is the body of Christ.  It is one entity, yet is made of up many different parts.  Just as the head isn’t attached where the feet are, so the people who make up the church live in different places. Just as each body part serves a different function, i.e., the big toe doesn’t do what the ear does and vice a versa, so God gives believers different gifts.  And just as you can do more with one of your hands than the other, so God gives different ministries and different power to the saints that make up the church.  

Yet with all this diversity,

The church is still just one entity,

The Body of Christ.

The reason for this unity is seen in verse 13, “For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”  Regardless of our genetic, cultural, or economic background, all of us who belong to Jesus became part of this body in the same way every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

Before we conclude our study today, I want you to make careful note of this verse and this passage because it corrects a lot of the nonsense that goes on in charismatic churches concerning the baptism of the spirit and speaking in tongues.  Pentecostal and charismatic theology teach a two tiered Christianity.  The first level is salvation.  The second level is being baptized by the Holy Spirit which is evidenced by speaking in an unknown tongue. This verse along with Romans 8:9, “But if anyone does not have the
Spirit of Christ, he is none of His”
makes it plain that unless a person is “baptized by the Holy Spirit” they are not Christians, and every Christian is indwelt (made to drink, cf. John 7;37-39 and 1 Corinthians 2:21; Galatians 3:2) by the Holy Spirit.  The passage shows that the manifestation of the Spirit could be in any of the spiritual gifts.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you that you are not “baptized in” or do not “have the Holy Spirit” because you do not speak in tongues.  That claim is in direct violation of the Bible, and anyone saying such a thing is either quite ignorant of the Scripture or a false teacher. We will look at this more closely as we talk about the different gifts of the Spirit over the next few days.

In verse 14-20 Paul restates his thesis and then goes on to illustrate the absurdity of one member of the body thinking they are not part of the body because they are not the part they wanted to be, “For the body is not one member, but many.  If the foot should say, ‘because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, ‘because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,’ it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be?  If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?  But now God has placed the members each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.  And if they were all one member, where would the body be?  But now there are many members, but one body . . .”

Obviously when we look at our own body, we realize that every part is needed in order to make up a whole body.  Every part is needed in order for the body to function. Everyone in the church is needed for the church to fulfill its God given purposes.  There are no “small” or “unimportant” gifts or ministries.  No one in the church should refrain from getting involved because they do not think they can do anything important.

Paul makes ludicrous statements in verse 17 in order to bring that point out.  Imagine if the whole body were one big eye.  You would make the National Enquirer, and be featured on television talk shows, but it would do you no good because you could not hear, walk, talk, or eat.  The same thing would be true if you were one big ear, or one big nose or any other body part.  The same is true in the church.  If everyone were a preacher, who would minister to the children.  If everyone worked with kids, who would help the sick. If everyone helped the sick, who would repair the facilities, etc.  Paul’s outrageous illustration gives us a clear focus that everyone in the church is needed, and as he says in verse 18, God equips and puts each person in the body just where He wants them.  There are many members, but one body.

Paul goes on in verses 26-27 to stress the need of every person using their gift.  He starts out by saying that there is no room in the church for prideful people who think only what they do is important.  Verse 21, “And the eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you’; or again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.”  Again, Paul uses an absurdity to bring out his point.  The eye needs the hand and the head needs the feet.  It takes every member of the body for it to function properly.  The same is true in the church.  Tragically, there are those that would think their particular gifts and ministries are the most important ones, and so they look down on other people.  But the truth is those things which are often thought of as the most important because they are out front and visible are not as important as what is behind the scenes.

For example, in terms of our physical bodies, we give a lot of attention to things like our face, hair, and general appearance.  Cosmetic advertisers would make you think that those things determine your self-worth.  We also give a lot of honor to our hands and their ability to accomplish tasks.  But let’s be honest about it.  Could you get by if your hair color wasn’t perfect?  Ladies, can you survive even if your lipstick is not the right shade to match your clothes?  Can you live a wonderful life even if your face is getting older and starting to take on the characteristics of a prune?  Of course.  Could you make it if you were missing one of your physical faculties such as sight, hearing, smell, taste or the use of your legs or hands?  It would be more difficult, but certainly you can live and succeed.  But if you are missing one of the body parts not thought of often, your “weaker” or more “feeble” parts, and you will find out quickly how necessary they are. How long can you make it without a heart, lungs, kidneys or liver?  In fact, when was the last time you gave serious contemplation to the care and well-being of your liver or pancreas, hypothalamus, or adrenal gland?  Yet all of them are necessary because without them, you are dead.

So it is in the church.  The preacher is probably the most visible person in the church, and after those who minister in music.  But you know something, the church can get along without me.  The church can get along without music.  The church can get along without this building.  But you know what this church cannot get along without? Faithful people praying.  Faithful people telling their friends, neighbors, and co-workers about Jesus Christ.  Faithful people calling one another to encourage and help one another. Faithful people discipling younger Christians.  Faithful parents instilling in their children virtue and the knowledge of God.  All of those are absolutely necessary for the church to exist.

Take away the preacher, the music ministry, and the building and the church will be hindered from what it could be, but it will survive and continue to accomplish God’s purposes.  This has been the case for the body of Christ under the severe persecution that has existed in the Communist countries.  But if these more hidden ministries do not exist, the church will become sick and eventually die.  Such has been the case in so many of the mainline churches which can have great orators, wonderful music and beautiful buildings, but the body itself is either extremely sick or dead.  God gifts each individual Christian with spiritual gift(s), and if they are not used, the whole body suffers. The “unseemly” gifts, those which are behind the scene, are often the most important.

Paul goes on to say in verse 23, “And those members of the body, which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our unseemly members come to have more abundant seemliness, whereas our seemly members have not need of it.  But God has so composed the body, given more abundant honor to that member which lacked, that there should be no division in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.”

Don’t get lost in the words “seemly and unseemly” or “comely and uncomely.”  Paul is simply referring what is exposed and what is covered with clothes.  In our physical bodies most of our bodies are covered by, or at least should be covered by clothing. Only a small portion is exposed.  In the church, there are ministries which are public and get a lot of attention.  There are also ministries that are done behind the scenes and get little attention.  Paul point here is simply to stress that there should not be any division in the body, and that every member should be cared for.

We are all in this together, and as Paul puts in verse 26, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”

That brings out the final aspect of this body metaphor.  We are all be knit together.  What I do affects you, and what you do affects me.  What each of us does affect the body’s ability to serve the Lord.  Every member is important and no member can be prideful.  If you are a true Christian, then God has equipped you to serve Him in some way.  If you are not using your gifts, then at best, you still leave this body handicapped. The body functions improperly.  We limp along when we should be running.  At worst, you leave this body sick to one degree or another.  Your failure to use your gift could be a nuisance such as a cold usually is to our physical body, or it could be a distraction such as a sinus infection might be, or it could be life threatening, such as a serious injury or disease might be to the physical body.

My challenge to you this morning is to start praying about how God can use you.  God has gifted you.  Do you know what your gift or gifts are?  More important, are you using them?  Every member of the Body is important.  You are either helping the Body fulfill its purpose in glorifying our Lord Jesus Christ, or you are hindering it.

We will be looking at the subject of spiritual gifts in the coming days in order to learn how we can better use what God has given to us for his glory.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Thinking Rightly About Yourself

Grace For The Journey

I have noticed a curious report over the last few years in which American High School students are tested and then compared with students from other countries.  These reports have caused quite a stir among educators because for quite a few years American students have been lagging significantly behind in science and math as compared to those from other nations.  This math and science “deficit” has resulted in several programs that are trying to boost those scores.  There was, however, one area in which the American students were rated top in the world.  Self-esteem.  Though the students were performing poorly compared to those of the other nations, they did feel better about themselves than those other students felt about themselves.  In this case, self-esteem and actual performance were not directly related.  The strange thing is that only a few conservatives thought that this indicated a problem.  Perhaps it would be better if our students did not feel so good about themselves and so would work a little harder to perform better.  But that idea is contrary to the philosophy of the educational elite which greatly values a high self-esteem.

Having a high self-esteem has become a critical issue within much of our society.  Many of those who push this issue do not believe there has to be a correlation between feeling good about oneself and actual performance.  These are the people that are behind the move to eliminate “winning” in children’s sports league.  Everyone is a “winner” and trophies are given to everyone out of fear the children that did not do as well will feel bad if the “winners” are honored.  Instead of preparing children for real life and encouraging them to try harder, they are pampered and set up for some very tough lessons when they do enter the real world.  In addition, there is no reward for those that succeeded because they tried harder, so they eventually do not try as hard.  In the interest of pumping of the self-esteem of these children, the character traits that result in actual success are discouraged.

In some theological circles this has been pushed to the point that the Scriptures have been twisted into advocating self-love as being of the first importance.  Some even strongly arguing that until a person has high self-esteem, they cannot love other people. One author even goes far as to say that the core of original sin is negative self-image or lack of self-esteem.  What does the Bible say about this issue?  Paul addresses what we think about ourselves in Romans12:3.

Review

When a person becomes a Christian, there is a radical change that takes place.  Paul has explained much of this throughout the first 11 chapters of Romans.  Through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, the sinner becomes a saint before God.

There is a new nature that is given birth and new desires begin to set the direction of the person’s life (2 Corinthians 5:17ff).  There is a change of masters.  Sin and Satan are dethroned and the individual is transferred to the kingdom of Christ where righteousness is now the master (Romans 6).  There is still a struggle against sin (Romans 7), but there is a hope for the future and the present that cannot be taken away.  There is nothing, no entity, no circumstance, past, present or future that can separate us from the love of God demonstrated and proved when Jesus Christ died in our place while we were yet sinners (Romans 5:8 and 8:35f.).  The good work that God started in us before time even began will be completed in our future glorification, and nothing can keep that from happening (Romans 8:19-20,).  His promises to us are as sure as His promises to Israel (Romans 9-11).

Paul has presented the theology of the Gospel in the first eleven chapters of Romans. Starting in chapter 12, Paul begins to detail the proper response to the Gospel.  In verses 1 and 2 he gives the foundational principles.   

It is upon the basis of the great mercies that God has shown to us in redeeming us from our sins through faith in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ that Paul calls on us to present our bodies as living and holy sacrifices that are pleasing to God.  Being a living sacrifice is the reasonable response of true worship that we should have because of what Jesus Christ has done for us.  Worship is not a Sunday morning thing.  It is the response of how you live your life in a daily and moment to moment basis in giving honor and glory to God.

The Christian is transformed into a living and holy sacrifice acceptable to God as we learn to resist the efforts of the world to mold them into its image, and instead are having our minds renewed.  We are learning to value what God values instead of what the world values.  We see things from the eternal perspective instead of the temporal one.  We become less self-centered and more God centered as we begin to understand our circumstances less in terms of how it is affecting us and more in terms of what God can do in the midst of the situation.  As the we become more mature in our walk with God, our manner of life demonstrates God’s will because we are doing what is good and acceptable to Him.

Practical Living as a Holy Sacrifice

This changed life will demonstrate itself in many practical ways.  We will be examining these specific areas over the next few weeks.  In verses 3-8, Paul addresses the first specific change – How is the Christian supposed to think of themselves since they have become part of the body of Christ?

The Christian will view himself differently than the non-Christian because the life of a Christian is no longer bound up in self.  The Christian is part of something far bigger than self.  Paul previously made the point that the one who believes in Jesus Christ is joined to Him that you might bear fruit for God (Romans 7:4).  Here Paul points out that the Christian is also part of the Body of Jesus Christ.  What you do and how you act will have an effect upon everyone else who is part of that Body.  In the next week of so we will look closely at the nature of the Body of Christ as well as various gifts that God has given to Christians so that you might serve God with wisdom and diligence, but for today, I want us to concentrate on the mindset that Paul points out we are to have as part of that body.

Look again at verse 3, “For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  Several elements stand out in this verse: 1) It is a command, not an option; 2) We are not to be proud; 3) We are to think with sound judgement based on God’s work in us.

A Command, Not An Option.

Paul’s statement here is given as a command based upon Paul’s apostleship.  The phrase, “through the grace given to me” is used by Paul in several passages as a reference to God’s gracious work in him in calling him as an apostle.

  1. In Romans 1:5, Paul refers to the grace and apostleship he had received from Jesus Christ that he might bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.  That is precisely the purpose of his command in verse three.  This proper self-evaluation is part of the obedience of faith for it involves thinking correctly about oneself and then carrying out the proper actions in light of being part of the body of Christ.
  2. In Romans 15:15-16, Paul uses this phrase again in a very direct statement about his authority as an apostle. :But I have written very boldly to you on some points, so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”  Paul recognizes completely that it was God’s grace alone that has made him an apostle, so he can be completely humble in his statement while at the same time also being completely authoritative, because an apostle is someone who is sent with the authority of the one who sent him, in this case, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  3. Paul uses this same phrase again in 1 Corinthians 3:10-11 where he says, “According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it.  For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Here he uses the analogy of being a builder to describe his work as an apostle in their lives.  
  4. In 1 Corinthians 15:10-11, Paul again uses this same phrase to demonstrate that his ministry has been completely dependent upon the grace of God upon him, and not upon his own will and efforts, “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.  Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.”
  5. He says something similar in Ephesians 3:7 concerning his preaching of the Gospel, “of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God’s grace which was given to me according to the working of His power.”

Paul’s statement in Romans12:3 is not an option for the Christian to take or leave as they please.  It is a command that comes with all the authority as if Jesus Christ had said the words Himself, for that is the authority of one of His apostles.  The Christian is commanded by Jesus Christ through Paul to “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a
measure of faith.”

No Pride.

What does it mean to “not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think.”  This could be reduced down to the idea that the Christian is not to be proud, but Paul’s statement here is more precise than that and therefore gives a greater understanding of the proper balance between an acceptable pride and in improper one.

The Bible has many things to say about pride, and almost all of them are either negative or warnings against it.  For example . . .

  • In Mark 7:22, Jesus lists pride among the things that are evil that proceed from the heart of man.  
  • Proverbs 11:2 warns, “When pride comes, then comes dishonor, but with the humble is wisdom.”
  • Proverbs 15:25 says, “The Lord will tear down the house of the proud, but He will establish the boundary of the widow.”
  • Proverbs 29:23 adds, “A man’s pride will bring him low, but a humble spirit will obtain honor.”
  • Proverbs 16:5 is very direct stating, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord; assuredly, he will not be unpunished.”
  • No wonder the Apostle Peter admonishes us in 1 Peter 5:5-6, “You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

Some have taken these statements and concluded that all pride is evil.  But the Bible does not present all pride as bad.  For example . . .

  • In 2 Chronicles 17:3, King Jehoshaphat “took great pride in the ways of the Lord and again removed the high places and the Asherim from Judah.”
  • In Isaiah 4:2 speaking about events to occur in the Millennium says, “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.”
  • Paul was proud of the Corinthians for their response to the Gospel and to his counsel (2 Corinthians 1:13).
  • He desired for them to be proud of him (2 Corinthians 5:12).
  • Proverbs tells us that a wise son makes a father glad (Proverbs 10:1; 15:20; 29:3) and that the father of the righteous will greatly rejoice (Proverbs 23:24).

In other words . . .

There is a proper pride,

But that pride is never haughty

And it is always related

To something that reflects

God or His character.

The wise son makes a father glad because wisdom reflects God.  Paul was proud of the Corinthians because they had responded to the Gospel and had corrected the things he
had admonished them about so that they were living in greater godliness.  Jehoshaphat took pride in the ways of the Lord and so acted accordingly.

All pride is not evil,

For there is

A proper pride

We are to have in

What the Lord is

Doing through us.

We will see that even more clearly as we look at spiritual gifts.  What is wrong is the
improper pride that causes a person to think more highly of himself than he should.  That is the pride the Lord resists and punishes.

This is the problem with the self-esteem movement that has affected our country, and even the church, so much over the last couple of decades.  

It is not about helping people develop

A proper confidence in their abilities

So that they might attempt even greater challenges.  

It is about giving people a sense of pride

About things for which they have

No reason to be proud – such as

Students who perform poorly,

But still feel good about it.

It is one thing to do the best you can and be out done by someone else.  There can still be a sense accomplishment in that, but to think highly of yourself when neither performance or effort were present is only baseless pride.  That is thinking of yourself more highly than you ought.

The self-esteem movement has affected the church

With very bad theology, for it is man centered.  

Self-worth based on self-esteem is nothing

More than baseless pride. Proper self worth

Is based in the rock solid foundation of God,

His character, and His actions through us.

For example, Robert Schuller, one of many popular “Christian” leaders who promote this idea, has said, “Pride in being a human being is the single greatest need facing the human race today?” (Self-Esteem – The New Reformation, pg. 19).  

The single greatest need

In the human race today

Is salvation from sin.

That is the same need that has been there since Adam first fell into sin.  There is no basis of pride in being a human being.  We are the cause of God’s curse on this earth and Jesus’ death.  Our only pride can be in our Savior who loved us and redeemed us for himself.

Schuller has also said “To be born again means that we must be changed from a negative to a positive self-image” (Self-Esteem, pg. 68).  He defines salvation as “to be permanently lifted from sin (psychological self-abuse with all of its consequences as seen above) and shame to self-esteem and its God-glorifying, human need-meeting, constructive, and creative consequences” (Self-Esteem, pg. 99).

To be born again is to be made alive in Christ

From our state of being dead in our trespasses and sin.  

Salvation is from sin and its consequences.

Salvation is a spiritual reality in which

The sinner is transferred from

Satan’s kingdom to Christ’s kingdom.

It is not a psychological mind game.

Schuller goes on in his book (pg. 36) to say, “God is trying to build his kingdom by appealing to our unsatisfied hunger for self-esteem.  He offers to save us from guilt and shame and insecurity and fear and boredom to a life of security, serenity, stimulation, and self-esteem!  Here then is a theology of salvation that glorifies God, for it glorifies his children by lifting them from hostility and rebellion-generating doubt and fear to self-confidence-building, creativity-inspiring, human-potential-releasing, human-brotherhood motivating, self-esteem.”  What a contrast all of that is with Jesus’ message that offended the people in John 6 so much that they all left except the disciples, or caused the rich young ruler to go away because he was unwilling to pay the cost of following Jesus (Matthew 19:16ff).  

We also find that Jesus often said things very hard on a person’s self-esteem, such as calling the Pharisees “hypocrites, “serpents,” and “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew23), or warning people to repent or they too could perish in some tragedy such as occurred by the collapse of the Tower of Siloam.  

Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven

Belonged to the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).  

It does not belong to the proud of heart.

Now most people who are affected by the self-esteem movement are not as heretical in all their theology as Robert Schuller, but I have heard those who would claim to be conservative evangelicals argue that Jesus’ quote of Leviticus 19:18 that “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” is a statement that you must love yourself before you can love your neighbor.  In doing so, they completely twist what Jesus said into something that is ludicrous.  Everyone loves themselves.  That is why they feed and take care of themselves.  Even in suicide, it is not an act done out of hatred for oneself.  It is an act done to protect oneself from further pain.  If a person really hated themselves they would do whatever was necessary to cause maximum pain, both physical and emotional.  Jesus’ point is the same as Paul’s in Ephesians 5:28-29, “So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies.  He who loves his own wife loves himself; no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it.”

Most people do not even go that far, but the problem of pride is universal among all people, including Christians.  The self-esteem movement has only aggravated the problem because it has given a veneer of respectability to something God hates.  It is my belief that the vast majority of struggles that a Christian will face will be directly related to problems with pride.  Let me give you some examples . . .

Finances.  Jesus tells us in Matthew 6 that we should not be anxious about the things of this life.  Instead we are to seek first His kingdom and righteousness and He will supply our needs.  Paul tells us Philippians 4:11-12 that he had learned to be content in every circumstance.  Why then are Christians discontent with their finances?  It usually boils down to seeing things you do not have and thinking you deserve them.  You then spend money on things you do not really need.  Several marketers understand this concept well and tell you that “You deserve a break today,” or “Because you are worth it,” so that you will buy their product.  It feeds your pride, and you buy.

Race relations.  The tension and strife is caused by simple pride.  Because people are ego centered, therefore people who are like me are worth more than people who are not.  Americans deserve more than the Chinese.  Why?  Perhaps American can earn more because of making better decisions in a better economic system, but do we “deserve” more?  How can the amount of melanin in the skin translate into some automatic determination of a persons’ worth?  It can only do that because of the pride existent in people to value those that are like themselves more than those who are somehow different from them.

Personal relationships including marriage.  Jesus’ command is for us to love one another as He loves us, and He sacrificed His life on our behalf (John 15:21ff).  All Christians are commanded to, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (Philippians 2:3).  Husbands are commanded to love their lives as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25).  Wives are commanded to respect their husbands (Ephesians 5:33).  It is pride that causes us to think that other people owe us something.  We should instead be looking for ways to love them.

Societal hierarchy.  This applies to social circles as well as employment lines of authority.  It even applies within the church.  Those with power and wealth have characteristically tried to suppress those without it.  Those with a higher social standing try to climb up the ladder while kicking those below down further.  Hinduism has set up its caste systems.  Other religions have their “priestly” class.  In Christ there is to be no difference between slave and free, Jew and Gentile, male or female (Galatians 3:8). In the church there is an authority structure, but there is no hierarchy of some being better than others.  Jesus said if you wanted to be great in His kingdom, you had to become the servant of all (Mark 9:5).  We shall see in the coming days that every person and every gift is needed in the church.  As a pastor, I have a position of higher authority in the church based on my gifts, but neither my position or me personally is of greater importance than anyone else in the church.

Over the years I have seen a lot of people do a lot of foolish things because of their pride, including things that have hurt the Body of Christ and our Savior’s cause.  I am sure you have too.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ,

We are commanded to not think of

Ourselves more highly than we ought.  

There is no basis for pride in the Christian.  

All that we are and all that we accomplish

Is due simply to God’s grace to us.  

He deserves all honor and praise, not us.

We need to follow Paul’s example in this in giving our God that honor and praise.  We need to follow the example of our Lord Jesus Christ in humility in doing anything God asks us to do.

Thinking with Sound Judgement.

How should we think of ourselves?  Paul says at the end of verse 2, “Think so as to have sound judgement, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith.”  The “measure of faith” is related to our particular gifts and abilities, which we will start examining tomorrow. 

Having sound judgement has no basis in pride,

But means that we accurately assess what God

Has given us and then with a confidence in Him

To do His work through us, we step forward

In the confidence of that faith to do that work.  

Proper self-esteem is not based in human pride,

But in confidence in God doing a work through you.  

Proper self-worth is not based in what you or

Any other human thinks about your value.

It is based solely in what God says about your value.

That removes the pride. 

Self-confidence is really not in self,

But in our great God who can

Use us for His purposes.

The self-esteem movement would have you find something to be proud of in yourself and then base your self-worth in that.  Some people believe you have intrinsic value simply because you are human and therefore you have value because of that.  Some Christians say this is true and state that Jesus’ death proves how much God values humans.  All of these can become the basis of pride, and none of them are true.

This may be a harder concept to grasp . . .

But man has no basis for

Self-esteem, self-worth or pride

In anything that originates in man.

Man has no intrinsic value.

Man’s only value comes

As a result of being made

In the image of God.

Do you recall from Genesis 9:6 why God instituted capital punishment for those who
murder another person?  It was not because of being a human, but because “in the image of God He made man.”  Christ died to redeem mankind because mankind was made in the image of God.  We are a love gift from the Father to the Son and from the Son back to the Father (See Titus 1:2; cf. Philippians 2:11; John 17:4ff; 1 Corinthians
15:58).

What then is sound judgement in evaluating my self-esteem?

  • Though I am a sinner and deserving nothing but God’s eternal condemnation,
  • God extended His love to me in mercy and grace to redeem me from my sins through Jesus Christ’s atonement for my sin.  
  • He then graciously imputed Jesus’ righteousness to me on the basis of faith in Him, and has made me part of His family and Christ’s body, the church.  
  • Through His Holy Spirit he has gifted me to serve Him, and in doing so, I
    fulfill His will and bring glory to His name.

In short . . .

I have value because

God can use me for His glory. 

When it comes down to it,

I have no other value except in that.

That is the reason that God created me.  

Therefore if I want to have greater value,

Then I must be faithful to fulfilling

God’s will for my life and bring Him

The maximum glory that I can.

I step forward to use my gifts in confidence that God will fulfill His promises and enable me to serve Him to my maximum capacity.

Do you know why you exist?  Are you fulfilling that purpose?  I pray that you understand that your self-worth is bound up in God and God alone.  Otherwise you will think of yourself more highly than you ought instead of with sound judgement.

This is God’s Word …

This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”