Sermon July 18, 2004 : A Simple Life (Romans 12:1) Part 4

 
  • Presenter: Dr. Roberto Miranda | Translator: Dr. Roberto Miranda
  • Length: 53:11
  • Date: July 18, 2004
  • Location: Congregation Lion of Judah, Boston MA

We’re going to Romans, Chapter 12. We’ve been preaching a serious of sermons on, I call them horizontal sermons, sermons that deal with the daily life of the Christians, both in the context of the church and also in the context of the daily existence in general. We’re going to begin with verse 3:

I don’t know if everybody has their Bible in English but I’ll translate loosely. It says: By the grace that is given to me I say to you, to each one of you who’s among, that you don’t have a higher esteem of yourself than you need to have, but rather to think of yourself with modesty according to the measure of faith that God gave to each, because in the same manner that in our body we have different members, but not all the members have the same function, in that same way, being many we are one body in Jesus Christ and all members one of the others, in such a way that having different gifts according to the grace that is given to us, if we have the gift of prophesy let us use it according to the measure of faith; or if of service, in serving: or if teaching, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who shares with liberality, or with generosity; he who presides with zeal and he who makes acts of mercy or performs acts of mercy, with joy.

We spoke last Sunday about serving the Lord, the attitude of service that God requires and how should service be carried out, with what kind of attitude and what kind of relationships and behavior. The Bible calls us first of all, not to have a higher esteem of ourselves, not to see ourselves in a greater way than we need to have, than we have a right to have. Instead of seeing ourselves in an exaggerated sort of way, let us see ourselves with modesty, the word in English I suppose, I don’t know what the translated word is in the Bible that we have, but “con cordura” means with common sense, in a healthy sort of way, in a modest, appropriate, exact, just sort of way.

That idea has several implications, one of them is that we need to know ourselves, we need to know who we are and what are the gifts that we have received, also what are our faults, what are our limitations in our characters, what are the areas that God still needs to work in us, in order to get us to another level of maturity, a higher level. So we need to know ourselves.

Many times we can project upon others our faults and there are so many people who are ignorant of themselves, they cannot see themselves with the lucidity that God wants us to see ourselves. There are so many deluded people in the world who are blind to their needs of transformation, of self transformation and all the time we are projecting our faults, we are disguising our defects and blaming others and projecting upon others our faults, rather than being honest and seeing our need before the Lord and before others and admitting and then asking the holy spirit to transform us and heal us. That’s so much better, so much healthier.

It’s so much better when we admit our faults because the person who does not admit their faults is condemned to repeating the same mistakes time and time again and being tripped over continually, in the course of life and in the course of relationships. When we know ourselves, our gifts, our flaws, our limitations, then we can live a life that is relatively free of those major mistakes that can cause so much pain in our lives.

Neurosis come when normal defects are repressed and areas of our psychological life are clouded over by suppression and then by lack of air, breathing and contact with the real world, they become infested, they become negative and corrosive and destructive and they increase in size and in toxicity, rather than breathing by recognition of their presence and by admission of the need for healing. So we need to recognize, we need to know ourselves. This is what the Apostle Paul is saying here, you know: “don’t have a higher understanding of yourself”, but see yourself in a modest, in a common sense sort of way.

The other consequence of this declaration is that we need to accept ourselves as we are, we need to accept ourselves. Accepting ourselves means, because the danger sometimes is even when we know our flaws, and we know our faults, we can fall into the trap of being excessively conscious of them and acquiring an inferiority complex, and living with insecurity. Sometimes insecurity can lead to over compensation where we then seek to cover over that essential lack of security in our being by acts of pride, or of boasting or of dressing in a flashy sort of way and seeking to cover that with expensive cars and big houses and big jobs and all this is just a way of covering that essential insecurity that we have, so it deforms our way of acting. So we need to accept ourselves, and in the context of the church this is also true because we need to know if God has given us a small relatively gift, we’re not the evangelist, we’re not the prophet and God has given us rather a gift of doing something that is modest, we need to accept that and not try to be what we have not been given to be.

Accept yourself just as you are and don’t think of yourself either more highly or lower or in a deformed sort of way. It means we have to accept ourselves.

The other consequence, there’s a third consequence of this calling. There’s also this understanding that emanates from this declaration that our gifts, our just that, they’re gifts from God, they are unmerited, they are given graciously and sovereign by the Lord and therefore we should discharge them with gratitude and with humility. We should always be grateful to the Lord for allowing to do even the little things that we’re allowed to do. The usher should thank the Lord for doing something which is essential in the life of the church, getting people making them feel good, ushering them into the presence of the Lord, facilitating the service of the House of the Lord. That’s a wonderful gift and we should thank the Lord for that. When somebody leads worship they should not take it for granted, he should thank God because it is an unmerited gift of grace from God and we should always be renewing our vow to discharge this gift in a way that honors the Lord.

The fourth consequence that I obtain from this, continuous in verse 4 where it says that: these gifts should be practiced according to the measure of faith that God gave allotted to each one. That concept of each one and then the Apostle is lead to think and to say “because in the same manner that in a body there are many members but not all the members have the same function, in that same way we, being many, are one body in Christ.” The motto of this nation “et pluribus unum” from many one. The gifts are given to each one of us. God has allotted a gift to each believer and there’s a diversity of gifts, in Chapter 12 of Fifth Corinthians we see that in a very powerful detailed sort of way, there are different operations, it says, different energemata, different operations of energy of the power of God and yet in that difference, that variety, that multiplicity of gifts is supposed to be exercised in unity, in the same way that in a body you have different functions, a multiplicity of functions and of members and organs, all working towards the preservation of life and the promotion of quality of life. In that same way the church is a body so the gifts need to be exercised in the context of the body, of community, of cooperation, of harmony and of mutual submission, one to the other. That’s very, very crucial.

It’s so important that we discharge the gifts of God that we develop the gifts of God in that context. We are like a team that is working together toward a specific goal and the goal is not the glory of an individual player, but the advancement of the team and the triumph of the team in the game. So that a player who is not sufficiently aware that there are other players, that he needs to work in concert with, will not be a good team player. We need to be so secure in ourselves and we need to know that the glory is not for me in serving the Lord. If somebody else can do the job better, let me give that job over to that person. If somebody can carry out the next phase of that operation because his gifts are much better than mine, let me yield and let them take over. My glory will be to know that I was part of a team effort and that the Kingdom of God was advanced and that I contributed something to it. That requires that we be secure in God. First of all we know that God sees and that he knows how to distribute the balance of things. God knows exactly what our contribution has been and if we are secure in the Lord, then we do not need the approval of men, we do not need the recognition of men because we know that more important than that is the glory of God in our lives.

It’s so important that we do not develop a sense of territory, turf and it’s so hard sometimes in the context of the church people who get used to a certain territory and they think: “This is mine, I worked for it, I bled for it and now nobody can touch this” and sometimes there’s somebody else in the church who can do either an equal job or better job and they come along and we are trying to open a little space for new leaders and the other leaders get all angry and defensive because: “No, this is my territory, I own it”. You know what, in the Christian kingdom nobody owns anything, everything belongs to the Lord. We are simply stewards of God’s property and when our time is done, let us step out graciously or even better let us step out before it is required of us and let somebody else take over and carry on the work of the Lord.

The servant leadership of Jesus Christ. These ideas are useful not only for the context of the church but also in the context of the family. There are many men who do not know how to be servants, they’re so conscious simply of their leadership, of their headship but they do not understand that headship is supposed to be carried out in a context of servanthood and of a body, where your wife has a place and a role to play in the context of the family, so are your children as well. You are simply a steward of a certain headship and authority that God has given but you’re supposed to carry out that graciously, mercifully, humbly and in the context of a team.

I pray that the Lord will enable us, as a church to always have leaders that know how to work with that spirit of humility, that spirit of servanthood, that spirit of modesty and of meekness before the Lord.

I pray that the Lord will allow us to have leaders who show the fruit of the spirit, that meekness, that humility, that benevolence, that kindness, that peace of God, fruits of the spirit that’s what enables us to carry on the work of God with the minimum of attack on the part of the devil.

Let’s just quickly look at some of the gifts and some of the leadership and service activities that we have here. Let me clarify something, in the charismatic world it is often said that there are 9 gifts because people have fixated on what First Corinthians Chapter 12 says about the gifts. There are more than 9 gifts. There are several lists of gifts in the New Testament and this is one more of those lists.

“… being many, we are one body in Christ being all of us members the ones of the others. Therefore according to the grace that we have received. If we receive the gift of prophesy let us use it according to the gift of faith that we have received.” It talks of a prophesy here, let me clarify one thing, prophesy is not just about foretelling the future. En English there is this idea that it’s not just foretelling but it’s also forth telling, giving the word of God with a special anointing whether it’s prediction of the future or mere annunciation of God’s active, specific will at a given moment. The prophet Aggec in the Old Testament when he talks about the will of God to reconstruct the temple, he’s not predicting anything about the future, he’s merely annunciating a specific desire that God has as that moment and in that place that his temple be reconstructed. When I stand here to preach I come having reflected on the word, having taken notes, having studied the word, but I also come with the expectation that God is going to prophesy through my preaching and that He’s going to speak a timely word to the congregation and when we announce the word of God, that’s the way we should do it: in the spirit of prophesy. Holy spirit come upon me and speak through me and let me be a vessel in your hands and use me for the blessing of those people that I’m going to witness.

This morning when I was sitting there, or standing there during the worship I got an impression, that’s all it was, it wasn’t a notable voice, that God wanted me to translate this sermon, as I preached it. I could have just thought, well it’s just an idea but I decided to adopt it as a prophetic word of God that He wanted me to do that. So I’m standing here today preaching this sermon and translating it in the spirit of prophesy. You know what motivated me to do this?

When I greeted my brother and I saw that he was bringing this family who’s here for medical attention from Honduras, and they live in Worcester and he is inconveniencing himself in a sense to exercise ministry on behalf of this family to enable them to have an experience of worship in their language and to bless them, to mollify their difficult experience of being here in this country, by allowing them to worship the Lord in their own language and to experience community. That blessed me and I said: “I want to honor this man by acknowledging his presence by preaching in English.” But I really feel that the Lord wanted to honor him and bless him and that’s why I’m doing this.

It is so important to live life prophetically. The Holy Spirit is speaking to us continually. There are moments in our life, in the course of work, relationships, home life that a word comes form the Holy Spirit. It is a subtle thought that is implanted in our spirit. It is just a shade of an influence from the Holy Spirit that can be very easily interpreted as simply as a mere thought. But if we are people of the spirit, of faith, we know, we learn slowly how to discern the difference and then we decide to obey that impulse of the spirit, and we act upon it and we are blessed. Many believers suffer from a too quotidian a life because they have not learned to live in the spirit of prophecy. We have to live life as prophets in waiting, always ready, always at the alert because we don’t know what moment God may want us to be a channel of his grace in the world.

To exercise that prophetic gifting that all of us receive in some measure, although other receive in huge measure, we need faith and this is why the Apostle says “… if you receive faith, use it according to the measure of faith that you have received”. If you are willing to let the Lord use you, many times God will start speaking to you and then maybe a thought that comes into your head, or an impression that you receive in your spirit, and if you have faith you decide to appropriate that impulse and to name it as a moving of the spirit in you. That’s why it says “according to the measure of faith”, because some have more faith than others and more ability to do that than others. When you do that in the name of Jesus, with humility, with tact and you dare to utter a word or to carry out an action in the name of Jesus because you believe that you’re being used by God at that moment as an instrument of God, that act, that word has prophetic power, it has an anointing, an influence that normal actions do not have and when you hear the spirit and you obey the spirit, the next time the spirit will be more disposed to use you.

“…or if you have received the gift of service, then serve”. That’s so important as well. What impacts me immediately about this text is that Paul adds the gift of service very high on the list, right next to prophecy, which is a spectacular gift. We all would like prophecy and we would think that service would be the last of the gifts and yet Paul puts it second in the list.

I believe that this is so because service is at the very core of Christian leadership. I think that every act of Christian leadership has an element of service, or should have an element of service in it. There are so many acts, what is being done here through our brother, that’s an act of service.

Somebody who goes and picks someone up at a home because they have no transportation and brings him to church on a Sunday, that’s an act of service. It is so hard to do. You know, there are people who don’t come to church because they don’t have somebody to bring them and there are many people in the church saying “oh, I don’t serve in the church because the pastor or the leaders have not given me an opportunity to serve”. Hey, look around you. Get a life! There’s a lot to do in the Kingdom of God.

In every church, in every Christian context there are multiple opportunities to serve and we don’t need somebody to appoint you to service. We don’t need a leader or pastor to devise the opportunity to serve. Look around. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you eyes that you might see the need to call a person who’s sick in the hospital to visit them. To pray for someone who is depressed and anxious in your community, to greet a visitor and just extend the hand of friendship to somebody who’s coming into the church. That is an act of service, to teach children in the Sunday school that teachers are always being needed. Many people suffer because they don’t have an opportunity to serve. Well there’s opportunity to serve.

Churches are sustained by people who serve. It is not just by the pastors and the associate pastors and deacons or elders. No, a church needs ushers, a church needs people who deal with parking, a church needs people who deal with maintenance and cleaning. That’s what enables us to have a context where we can adore the Lord in comfort. I thank the Lord for each person who has a spirit of service because to me the spirit of service is the very essence of Christian life and of Christian leadership.

Serve the Lord in the little things and you shall be promoted to bigger things. The Bible says: “Come, good faithful servant, in the little things you have been faithful I shall put you in the greater things”. That is the archetype of dynamic of Christian service. Be willing to serve the Lord in the small things then God will ascend you on to bigger and better things.

A third one. “… he who teaches, in teaching”. This idea that is implicit in the way this list is carried out, of serving the Lord in natural, spontaneous sort of way. If you’ve been given the gift of service, well serve; if you’re given the gift of teaching, well teach; do it naturally, do it spontaneously, do it in absolute affinity and compenetration with the spirit that you have received. Don’t resist it, don’t try to make it too ornate. Just serve God with simplicity of spirit.

Teaching is such an important gift. A church needs not only to convert on believers, but also to turn them into servants of the Kingdom of God, and into leaders, and into people who are well trained who know why they believe and what they believe.

Every church needs, not only people who can teach, those are very necessary and teaching should be done in simplicity of spirit, but also there should be people who are willing to be taught. It is so important that, in our church we have several, we have 7, 8, 10 classes that are given every semester for discipleship and teaching of all kind of sorts, but the question is: Are the people going to come? Thank God that we have a good number of people who come and study, but we need more, we want more.

If you are new to the Kingdom of God, I want you to know that God wants you to proceed to full maturity. Do not stay in an infantile stage in your faith. Learn, read, study, reflect, ask the Holy Spirit to instruct you, develop curiosity about the Kingdom of God.

To study the word of God is one of the most important activities that a Christian can carry out. We need to grow in the knowledge of the word of God. A Christian who is mature, who is solid in the knowledge of the word of God, will be a solid believer, very hard to shake off, very hard to take away from the kingdom, very hard to discourage completely when times of trial come. Teaching is very important in the Kingdom of God.

So as we carry out these gifts, let us do so with humility, let us do so with a sense of gratitude, let us do so in a tentative sort of way, knowing that these are unmerited, that they should be done in a context of community and of team work and of servant spirit.

Simplicity in service, that is the frankness, openness to serve the Lord.

Let’s humble ourselves before the spirit, as the word has been prophesized to us, let us now receive that word. As we serve the Lord let us remember the word of God, His eyes drove over all the earth seeking those who are of perfect heart in order to show himself favorable on their behalf.

Everything that you do, do it as on to the Lord and you will be blessed, and you will be prospered.

Father, help us to be humble, meek, with a spirit of service always. We confess that we have a long way to go but we know that this is what you have set up for us and we receive your word.

Comments

 
 

"We read to know that we are not alone". A scholar once said. It brings great comfort and clarity when the love of God and his guidance coming through the practical teaching of Christ. To know and accept one's own self and be the person God wants us to be demands great effort and courage, this courage can only come to us when we open ourselves to Him. My mother often disciplined us with these words: Be not so quick to point a finger at someone before we can exam the four pointing towards ourselves. Let us always bath ourselves in the words of God. Because He alone makes all things possible.

 
 

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