September 08, 2019 | Bryan Simmons
Passage: Romans 12
Okay. Well, how's everyone doing on this kind of misty and cool morning? Better now you're inside and it's nicer in here. This reading from Paul presents a lot of things for us to have to deal with. And we're in the midst of a sermon series, "Blessed to be a Blessing," just a quick three weeks sermon series based on our Gather, Grow and Go mission statement. And this is the Grow portion of that today.
And it sounds like, well, there's not much growth in this. It just sounds like we're supposed to present our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. That sounds nice when it's written down. And since Paul literally did that, it's easy for Paul to say.
And it reminds me of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. "Be perfect, just as your Heavenly Father is perfect." Well, it's easy for Jesus to say because Jesus was perfect. And so it can cause this immediate humility to sink in. We are not good enough. We will never be good enough.
Who here has been arrested and is facing beheading because of your faith in Jesus Christ? I have heard the sermon preached--we should be more like Paul. But I'm not exactly sure if that's the direction we all need to be heading. No pun intended there.
For one, if we were all like Paul then there wouldn't be anyone else doing the work of the ministry that needs to be done, except for what Paul was doing. And there is a lot more to the Christian life and faith, than going from town to town and evangelizing in risky places.
Paul understood this himself. It's why Paul talks about these these different gifts that we have, that we are all members of the body of Christ. And we all individually contribute something to it. And not only that, but we all depend on each other for the body to be successful.
We each have different gifts in the body of Christ. Not all of us are good at the same thing. And thank God for that. Right?
By the grace given to me, Paul writes, I say to everyone among you, not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment--each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members and not all the members have the same functions. So we who are many, are the body of Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us.
Prophecy in proportion to faith: ministry administering; the teacher in teaching; the exhorter in exhortation; the giver in generosity; the leader in diligence; the compassionate in cheerfulness. For those gifted in compassion, you might be getting off a little easy there--just have to be cheerful. You can laugh at that. That's OK.
We are all one in the body of Christ, and these gifts make us stronger as the one body. I think sometimes we get caught up in the church and we think we need to be all things for all people at all times. You need to be in the kitchen doing stuff there, and then you've got to teach the kids upstairs, and then you got to help with worship here, and you've got to make sure to be outside evangelizing, and then work in the food pantry. And . . . phew!
And then don't forget to give beyond 10 percent. It's a lot, it's a lot and we get caught up in that, and I think it's because we do feel the pressure. Not only believing the good news for us, that forgiveness of sins and life, everlasting in Jesus name is true for us and for all people. I think we get overwhelmed by the work that we see that needs to be accomplished.
It is an eternal work that we are trying to accomplish in our mortal limited bodies. And so presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice can sound like a slap in the face. Just like Jesus saying, "just be perfect like your heavenly father is perfect."
The beauty in those statements is an immediate recognition of how hard it is. And how it is a lofty goal and that we need to build up to that point, we can't just simply BE we can't just simply DO. We need to GROW. There is a point A and a point B, and there is a place in between for that journey.
I really enjoy working on cars. And in that process there was a little bit of my dad showing me what to do on my first car. There was reading about it so I could become more intellectually connected to what needs to be done--what tools I would need, where the parts on the car are, what each part does. And as I studied and grew in that, I became a little more confident in what I was doing. And then I started working for my father-in-law. Maybe some of you know the story--I started working for my father-in-law at his auto dealership when I lived in Manson for a while. And there were other mechanics, much more experts at it than I was.
Because, while I do like working on cars, I never really became a mechanic. It never really clicked for me in a way that most mechanics have it happen. You see, you can read all you want about it. You can tinker as much as you want to. But until you feel fully invested and you start hearing these automobiles speak to you--I know it sounds weird--but you start understanding that the alternator is intimately connected to the battery and the generator and you start realizing that the the engine is not just a component to itself. They all affect each other and the computer can have the power to wreck everything. Until you feel the life of that car, you're a hobbyist.
So true in our Christian faith. The study is important. The dabbling is important. But it's God who works on us, who invites us into a deeper life, a deeper relationship that we can participate in and things we are doing in the church and the studies that we have.
But it is in feeling the very heartbeat of Christ inside of you. And seeing through Christ's eyes at a world in need, that you truly begin to grow into this idea of being a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God. Where your life becomes one in the body.
So where do you gift it at? Where do you truly feel a part of the body in this ministry? Are you pursuing that? Are you working to strengthen those gifts, are you finding other people that share in the joy of those gifts with you? Don't be overwhelmed with all the work that is to be done within the ministry, within the church, bringing the kingdom.
Be strengthened by your gift that God has given. Be encouraged by the message you hear. Study those scriptures so that you can start to see the world as God sees it. A world as screwed up as it may be, that was worth creating. It was worth dying for. It is worth redeeming.
May your heart beat with the body of Christ. So that you may know the joy of being a living sacrifice. Exercising those gifts that God has given. Strengthening those gifts, as iron sharpens iron. So that we may all work as one. For the sake of the gospel.