In Romans chapter 12, there is a challenge offered and a description of how to answer that challenge. The challenge is to consider ourselves living sacrifices to God and calls that “reasonable service.” But how do we live as living sacrifices? In great part, it has to do with how we use what we’ve been given in concert with others.
3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another.
6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
Imagine being given a great tool and a platform to use it in. A great sewing machine and all the materials and an opportunity to create a beautiful wedding dress, just given to you. And all you do is thank God for it, tell all your friends about it, show everyone pictures and get an article written up in the local news about your story; but you never actually use all that. We love stories of great opportunity. But translating that opportunity into reality takes all that, the power of initiative and discipline and use of skills. And one other incredibly important factor. Others.
It’s pretty American to think of the power of the individual. We make heroes of those who practice rugged individualism.
Take the Duke, for example. John Wayne, everyone’s favorite actor, rode by himself, took on bad guys by himself and rescued whomever, “by himself”. Okay, maybe he wasn’t the only one. How about Tom Cruise as Ethan Hunt. Mission Impossible always had a team, but you knew it was all about Ethan Hunt as the individual that made all the craziness work out.
There’s power in individual responsibility taken, right? You must do your own homework, you must get yourself out of bed in the morning, go to work. Nobody is going to do it for you. If you’re going to grow, you must read your Bible and pray.
But the reality is that we were never meant to live or function in a vacuum. And the first thing the Lord gives us, after talking about the norms of living out a radical commitment, is all about living in concert with other believers in a local church context and using our gifts together. In quite a few places in the Bible believers are taught that collectively, we are to think of ourselves like parts of a human body would act and interact.
Each part of the body has a different appearance and a different function. The saying “plain as the nose on your face” is not “plain as the liver in your abdomen” for a reason. Both are different in function and visibility. But what do we call someone who doesn’t have all the parts of their body functioning? We might say that they are physically challenged, an older term might be handicapped. Can the Body of Christ be handicapped?
Yes; unless every part is functioning.
We have a great deal of participation in our church life. But are there some areas in which we are handicapped? Yes. And usually the reason that our church and every other church like us is partially handicapped is that individual members don’t consider using their gifts to be eternally important. In America, by and large, people put more sincere effort into pleasing their boss than pleasing the Lord. Well, he’s paying me. Hmm.
Of course, you should please your boss. But you should please the Lord on a much higher level. Apathy is rampant in the American church, for a lot of reasons, but every believer needs to address that possibility in their own lives, then apply themselves to the corporate body.
So here are gifts, meant to be exercised in love with energy, in concert with other believers:
Prophecy. In some way, hearing from God His message and giving it out.
Serving. (Ministering). Doing what you do as responsively and humbly as a servant would.
Teaching. Imparting truth in love. Not just from the front but in every relationship. Parenting.
Exhortation. Giving words and expressions of encouragement that urges others on.
Giving. Liberally, as in, whatever you have is able to be given away at God’s direction.
Leading. With energy, consistency, take responsibility for getting people from here to there.
Mercy. Cheerfully helping those who are in some need without getting jaded.
Everyone has gifts. It’s a part of being in God’s family. Everyone needs to join in relationship, in a local church, this one if you’re here, and use them.
And how do we use them? With faith, with a servant’s heart, with skill, with encouragement, liberally, with energy and faithfulness and cheerfulness. That sounds like a group that could change the world.
So what’s holding you back?
I beseech you there, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable, which is your reasonable service.
When the Head directs, if every part of the Body is functioning well, we pull in the same direction, move in the same path, accomplishing His directions. And what He has made clear to us this year is that He is directing us, as His Body, to reach our corporate hands to those who are unsaved and unchurched and help them come to Him.
Will you reach with us?