Monday, December 2, 2013

Grace And God’s Body by Martin Wiles

Romans 12:3-8
A. There is nothing like a well oiled machine.

B. Take the car engine for example. Some of us know the intricate parts of it while others just know we’re glad it starts and lets our car take us where we want to go. We tend to take it for granted.

C. But a lot of things have to happen for it to do so. The oil has to be changed regularly so it won’t get gummy. The pistons have to work correctly so the spark plugs will fire properly. Belts have to be in good shape. The alternator has to charge properly so all the functions that it controls will take place. If it fails, everything will run strictly off the battery and shortly you will find yourself walking. The radiator has to be filled with water and antifreeze to keep the engine cool. The compressor must be in working order so you can keep cool. On and on we could go.

D. Having explained how our bodies are temples of God’s Spirit, Paul now moves to detailing how all parts of that body must work together in harmony for God’s church to be effective.

E. The believer’s body is the temple of God’s Spirit, but collectively, believers are the body of Christ on earth doing the work he left us to do.

F. Only as we understand how God has gifted us and as we use those gifts to take advantage of opportunities in his Kingdom work, can the church universal be effective.

I. God’s Grace Assists Us In Effectively Evaluating Ourselves (v. 3-4)
A. The issue of self esteem.
1. Self esteem is an issue for many people. Some have too much self esteem while others don’t have enough. A middle evaluation is best but perhaps most people fall on one of the two extremes.
2. There are many verses in the Bible that warn about pride. Pride results when we have too much self esteem. These are the people who think they are better than others. You have met them. I have as well. They may have been born with the silver spoon in mouth or acquired wealth and possessions by their hard work. Either way, these things have affected their attitude about themselves and others.
3. If you don’t fall into their circle by virtue of some characteristics you must possess, they want nothing to do with you.
4. I remember the Andy Griffith episode where Andy-and Barney by virtue of association, was invited to attend a meeting of the Esquire Club with the possibility of becoming a member. Barney was quick to let everyone know of this opportunity. Unfortunately, his efforts to make an impression made him a fool, and they turned him down.
5. On the other hand, there are those persons who don’t think highly enough of themselves. Perhaps they were given derogatory messages as a child by parents who had been given the same messages and didn’t know how to break the cycle. Maybe it has resulted from being in an abusive marriage with a spouse who has constantly demeaned them. Or perhaps it was some body image that caused kids at school to make fun of them and not pick them for games that were played.
6. Whatever the reason, they don’t think much of themselves.

B. What should the believer think of themselves?
1. Paul warns us to be honest in our estimate of ourselves.
2. While on the one hand, we cannot let pride destroy us; neither should we think less of ourselves than God says we should.
3. We need to realize who we are apart from Christ but also who we are in him. Paul has already detailed our condition apart from Christ. We are sinners, and the wages of sin is eternal death-separation from God eternally.
4. But after accepting Christ as our Savior, that is no longer our condition. Saved, sanctified, forgiven, cleansed, and justified are all words that now apply.
5. So we have to do a balancing act. Knowing what Christ has done for us can also lead to pride if we are not careful.
6. Grace helps us remember all that has taken place is all of grace and not anything on our part.
7. We are no longer judged or condemned based on what we were.
8. We should be confident in who we are now while at the same time realizing we had nothing to do with it. This will result in us having an honest estimate of ourselves and will help us avoid the difficulties that accompany low self esteem.

C. We all have special functions.
1. To reinforce this, Paul alludes to the human body.
2. Like a car engine, it works best when all parts are doing what God created them to do.
3. Many of us have had particular parts malfunction or stop working. We know what happens. It can result in death, impaired health or surgery.
4. Clogged arteries can lead to stroke or heart attack. Gall bladders have to be removed when not functioning properly. Cataracts must be removed to restore proper sight.
5. As believers, we all have a special function, and that makes us special and important in God’s sight. So we must learn to view ourselves as God sees us.
6. You may not like your body now or perhaps you didn’t like it when you were younger. Diet plans and exercise equipment use relay the fact that many are not satisfied.
7. Regardless of whether or not we would like it to look differently is immaterial. We are special because of who created us.

II. God’s Grace Helps Us Find Our Place (vv. 5-8)
A. God’s church is multi faceted.
1. Remember the kaleidoscopes that were once popular. You looked through the lenses and could see all sorts of colors but somehow mixing all those colors produced a magnificent sight.
2. It is the same with God’s church. He takes people from all walks of life-as was evident in his choosing of his disciples, with all sorts of different personalities, binds them together and equips us to do his work.
3. Maybe that doesn’t seem like the best plan but that’s the way God has chosen to work.
4. We might think things would go better if we were all alike and had the same opinions, but God has chosen to work through variety.
5. We are one body but have different work to do.
6. At the same time, we need each other to do God’s work. We are not lone rangers on a mission to see how much we can accomplish by ourselves.

B. Conclusions about our gifts.
1. God is the source of all our gifts and abilities. They are not given because we are special or his favorites. There are no God pets like teacher’s pets.
2. Believers do not all have the same gifts, and even when we do have like gifts we use them differently because our circumstances and personalities are different.
3. Knowing ourselves, our circumstances and personalities helps us use these gifts more effectively.
4. Using our gifts should be done with the idea of furthering God’s kingdom and not bringing attention to ourselves or for our pleasure.
5. We should give one hundred percent of ourselves in using the gifts.

C. Paul’s laundry list of gifts.
1. Theologians differ on whether the Bible gives a complete list of spiritual gifts. Believers also differ on whether some of the gifts-the more charismatic ones, are still in effect or were simply given for a period of time.
2. Regardless of our conclusions on the above matters, God does gift his children with various gifts. Most believers would have more than one and some have many. As we use them God gives us more opportunities and perhaps more gifts.
3. Gifts are not the same as natural talents or abilities although they may- and often do, work in conjunction with one another.
4. Paul says it best; God has given each of us the ability to do certain things well. (v. 6)
5. Some have the gift of prophecy. This is one of the disputed gifts. Some believe it is still in force while others discount this notion.
6. We must remember that prophecy was not and is not always predictive in nature. A prophet’s validity was judged by whether or not the prophecy came true. But prophecy was also expounding on God’s already revealed message. To prophesy could mean either to predict or preach God’s message or both.
7. If one has this gift, they are to do it with the faith that God is speaking through them and that they are not simply using their words and merely delivering a message. The message is vital because it proceeds from God.
8. Peter reminds us that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation but rather those who spoke were moved by the Spirit of God. (II Peter 1:20)
9. Service is a gift. I believe this is a gift given to all believers. It is the ability to minister to the needs of others and to do so in God’s name and because of his love. Christ has deposited his love in our heart, and we have the ability to share the practical results with others.
10.  Paul reminds us if we have this gift, we are to serve well. Don’t do it half heartedly. We are to do our best.
11.  If God has given someone the gift of teaching, they are to do a good job. They are entrusted with the responsibility of clearly explaining God’s Word and its practical application.
12.  James says many should not desire to teach because God will judge them more strictly. (James 3:1)
13.  The ability to encourage is another gift. Everyone can use a steady dose of encouragement. There is enough in our world to discourage without believers contributing to the mass of despondency.
14.  There is also the gift of giving. God blesses some with monetary abilities. They are able to assist in expanding God’s work through monetary gifts the average person could only dream of. We’ve heard it said of some people that everything they touch turns to money.
15.  Money is not evil, and it is certainly necessary to expand God’s kingdom.
16.  Others are blessed with leadership skills. This is necessary in some callings God gives to certain individuals. For example, the one called to pastor must have leadership skills.
17.  Leaders are good organizers and managers, and this has to take place in God’s work.
18.  Finally, there is the gift of kindness. I think all believers also have this gift. Because of Christ’s kindness to us, we have the ability to demonstrate this to others.

A. Instead of competitive spirits and jealousy, we should thank God he gifts all his children and we don’t have to do it alone.

B. Our responsibility is to discover our gifts, use them effectively, and work in harmony with other believers.

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