I Am Not Ashamed: Humble Service in the Body of Christ

I Am Not Ashamed  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Christians are members of a body—the Body of Christ—who are gifted in order to humbly minister to each other.

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Text: Romans 12:3-8
Theme: Christians are members of a body—the Body of Christ—who are gifted in order to humbly minister to each other.
Date: 02/26/2017 File Name: Romans_2016_36.wpd ID Number:
As the Apostle begins this next section of the practical application of redemptive theology, the thrust of his argument is simple: Christians are members of a body—the Body of Christ—who are each endowed with spiritual gifts in order to humbly minister to each other. The Apostle writes to the believers at Rome that they are part of a spiritual community that God is seeking to conform into the image of His only begotten Son. To that end, God gives spiritual abilities to every member to minister to other members to help accomplish that conformity.
The purpose of offering ourselves to God as living sacrifices is not mystical or monastic but eminently practical. Devotion to the Lord and active, faithful ministry for Him are inseparable. We cannot be truly sacrificed to Him and be inactive in His work. And, on the other hand, we cannot be truly successful in His work without being genuinely devoted to Him.
So what does genuine Christian service involve?

I. CHRISTIAN SERVICE REQUIRES AN HONEST EVALUATION

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.” (Romans 12:3, NIV84)
1. the Christian life is a life of changed relationships
a. 1st, when a person comes to faith in Christ he enters into a new relationship with God
1) in vs. 1-2 of Romans chapter 12 the apostle reminds the believers in the church at Rome that they are to be a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable under God
2) this is not the life of the “super saint” but the normal Christian experience
b. 2nd, when a person comes to faith in Christ he also enters into a new relationship with God’s people
1) we are now part of a “community of faith” — in here there is only “we” and not “me”
2. both of these new relationships call for major adjustments in the believers thinking and attitudes

A. OUR NEW LIFE DEMANDS A NEW ATTITUDE

1. we live in a culture that celebrates radical personal-autonomy
a. radical autonomy is the trend in our society of holding “me, myself, and I” in the highest level of reverence, and authority
1) our right of self-expression has come to trump anyone else’s rights
2) and we have created a whole set of non-existent “rights” to protect our autonomy
2. in vs. 3 the apostle would have us know that the church is a very different place than society — or at least it ought to be
a. there is no place for radical self autonomy in the Body of Christ because in the Body of Christ radical self sacrifice is the order of the day
1) a church built on the absolute virtue of each member’s self–autonomy can not last (by the way, neither will a culture)
2) it is impossible for everyone in a church to live in such a way that their autonomy is recognized, celebrated and never infringed upon
3) if you believe that church is all about having your felt needs met, and your conscience soothed, and your feelings positively engaged then move to Houston, TX and join the Lakewood Church (some of you will get that an may need to explain it to others)
3. the Apostle writes, “ … do not think of yourself more highly than you ought …”
a. if we all lived by that admonition most churches would be a very different place
1) the problem is, we do — too often — think of ourselves “too highly”
ILLUS. Unfortunately, there are too many professing Christians who believe that they are God’s gift to their local church, and if they left the church it would simply fold up. There have been times in my career as a pastor when I wanted to tell a church member, “Why don’t you go be a blessing to some other pastor, and congregation?”
2) we think of ourselves “too highly” because that’s what the world trains us to do, the devil encourages us to do, and the self thoroughly wants to do
a) the world says that “self-esteem” is virtually the most important attribute in a person’s life
b) the autonomy of self, and the right to govern one’s self is the supreme attribute of American culture
b. the proper response of the Christian who understands that life is all of grace freely given, that we are saved by the sheer mercy of God, is a new attitude of humility
1) Jesus said to his disciples: "If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all"
a) the world says one ascends into greatness, and when you ascend to greatness others will serve you
ILLUS. Look at the entourages that accompany important political leaders, and top-tier entertainers.
b) the Bible reveals that one descends into greatness, and when we descend into greatness there is no one we are unwilling to serve
2) it was a lesson, however, that the disciples were slow to learn, and it is a lesson we, too, are slow to learn
4. our new life demands a new attitude, and it is NOT the attitude of radical self-autonomy

B. OUR NEW LIFE DEMANDS A NEW ATTITUDE GUIDED BY FAITH

1. as Christians we are to have sober judgment toward ourselves, and also toward others
a. Paul makes the first task of the renewed Christian mind the obliteration of pride and the cultivation of humility
b. the believer is not to overvalue his abilities, his gifts, or his worth but make an accurate estimate of himself that is in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you
2. why does Paul make faith the measure of the self?
a. 1st, Paul makes faith the measure of our self-identity because the essence of faith is that it looks away from the self to Christ and treasures him as infinitely valuable and significant and worthy of esteem instead of ourselves
1) the culture would have you look in the mirror and see only self
2) the Christ would have you look in the mirror and see only Jesus
a) if Christ is more to you, you are more
b) if Christ is less to you, you are less
c) the measure of yourself rises and falls with your measure of him
b. 2nd, Paul makes faith the measure of our self-identity and self-assessment because faith is a gift of God and therefore eliminates boasting
1) if faith is the measure our self-identity then no Christian can boast over any other believer in the Church as if we had achieved something by our own strength or wisdom or virtue
2) the Apostle gives us an example of sober judgment of self when he writes to a young minister named Timothy
“I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 13 Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. 14 The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. 15 Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. 16 But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:12–16, NIV84)
3) to think soberly is to have the divine perspective — we are slaves to God, and to each one another
4) so we place ourselves under others rather than above them
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3–4, NIV84)
3. Humble Service in the Body of Christ Begins with an Honest Evaluation Ourselves

II. CHRISTIAN SERVICE REQUIRES AN HUMBLE ADMISSION

“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4–5, NIV84)
ILLUS. Richard Gillard, the eldest of six children, he emigrated to New Zealand with his family when he was three years old. Writes, "I've had almost no formal musical training. I'm a self-taught guitarist and play mostly in a folk style." Regarding "The Servant Song," he says it "was first published in 1978 on a record album by Scripture in Song called "Father Make Us One" and has appeared subsequently in other Scripture in Song publications including a song book entitled "Songs of Praise" which is widely used by New Zealand congregations.
We are travelers on a journey, Fellow pilgrims on the road; We are here to help each other Walk the mile and bear the load. I will hold the Christ-light for you In the nightime of your fear; I will hold my hand out to you, Speak the peace you long to hear.
Sister, let me be your servant, Le me be as Christ to you; Pray that I may have the grace to Let you be my servant, too. Brother, let me be your servant, Let me be as Christ to you; Pray that I may have the grace to Let you be my servant too.
I will weep when you are weeping, When you laugh, I’ll laugh with you; I will share your joy and sorrow, Till we’ve seen this journey thro’. When we sing to God in heaven, We shall find such harmony, Born of all we’ve known together Of Christ’s love and agony.
I think Paul would have heard this hymn and said, “Yes, that’s what I’m trying to say here.”
1. why does the apostle put such an emphasis on an honest evaluation of our character and conduct?
a. because we do not belong to ourselves, we belong to a body — the Body of Christ
2. the human body is a whole mechanism and yet depends on each one of its various members, and organs to function properly
ILLUS. According to science there are eleven major “systems” in the human body. Structures such as the skeletal system, the muscular system, the nervous system, the respiratory system, and a good Baptist’s favorite — the digestive system.
a. if any of the body’s systems tried to function other than the way they were intended, the body would be crippled
b. this is exactly Paul’s point about the Church
1) the local church becomes dysfunctional — even crippled — when the various members of that congregation are not ALL accomplishing their function within the body

A. THE CHURCH IS THE BODY OF CHRIST

1. the Church is not merely one of many other institutions within society
2. the Church is the incarnation of Christ in the world
a. the term Body of Christ was the Apostle Paul's favorite analogy for the Church
“The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:12–13, NIV84)
b. there is probably no more powerful metaphor that describes the Church than thisone
c. here in Romans 12 we have a minimalist use of the metaphor, and Paul fleshes it out more fully in 1st Corinthians 12:11-27 that Deacon Schepker read earlier in the service
1) it’s so self-explanatory that it needs virtually no commentary
2) we all have a body, and we all know that when various parts of the body act dysfunctionally that the entire body is diminished in some way
d. the church is not, cannot be composed of a bunch of rugged individualists
1) vertically, we are not our own, we belong to Christ
2) horizontally, we are not our own, we belong to each other
3. this analogy reminds us of the supernatural dimension of the church
a. just as Jesus was the incarnation—the infleshing—of God on earth, so the church is the incarnation of Jesus in our world today
b. it is through his body the Church, that God seeks to accomplish His will and to advance His Kingdom in this world
4. what does this relation mean for us practically?
a. 1st, it means that God is present in a supernatural way when His people gather together in one place
"For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." (Matthew 18:20, KJV)
b. 2nd, it means that God Himself — through His Holy Spirit who indwells every believer — empowers His Church to accomplish His will
1) by God's design, not even the smallest or most insignificant part of the body is unessential
ILLUS. One of Aesop's Fables is entitled The Fable of the Belly. Aesop writes: "One day it occurred to the members of the body that they were doing all the work and that the belly was having all the food. So they held a meeting and after a long discussion decided to strike work until the belly consented to take its proper share of the work. So for two days the hands refused pick up the food, the mouth refused to receive it and the teeth had no work to do. But after a day or two [the body’s members] began to find that they themselves were not in very active condition. The hands could hardly move, the mouth was all parched and dry, while the legs were unable to support the rest. Thus they found that even the belly in its dull quiet way was doing necessary work for the body and that all must work together or the body would go to pieces."
2) listen to how the Apostle Paul puts it:
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (1 Corinthians 12:17–18, NIV84)
3) each person in the Body of Christ has been providentially put there by God, and has been given spiritual gifts, and abilities that are essential to the life of the total body
5. even the seemingly most insignificant member of a congregation is important to the over-all workings of the Body
“On the contrary, those p arts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty,” (1 Corinthians 12:22–23, NIV84)
6. Humble Service in the Body of Christ Begins with a Humble Admission—We Are Part of the Body of Christ, We Are Not Our Own

III. CHRISTIAN SERVICE REQUIRES AN HEARTFELT MINISTRY

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.” (Romans 12:6–8, NIV84)
1. our different gifts are the way we blend into the Body of Christ
a. each of us has a critical part to play in the oneness that is the Church
b. to neglect the grace given us is to diminish the functionality of the local Church
ILLUS. Imagine if only 15% of your heart worked. You’d probably be on oxygen, and would be prohibited from doing much of anything. Imagine if only 15% of your muscles worked. You’d probably be diagnosed with a muscular disorder, and would be wheelchair bound. Imagine if only 15% of your kidneys worked. You’d be on dialyses. Imagine if only 15% of your eyes worked. You’d be considered legally blind. Why 15%? Because most studies reveal that, in the average church, this is the percentage of membership who are truly active in both working in the church, and regularly supporting the church!
2. in a very real sense, most churches limp along crippled because the majority of members are neglecting the grace given them
ILLUS. There was a time, when I thought it was important that church members know what their spiritual gifts are. To that end, about every three years, I would have the Church Secretary provide copies of a spiritual gifts inventory in the bulletin for members to take. Spiritual gifts inventories are not fool-proof, but they can be helpful in discovering what one’s spiritual gifts might be. Alas, I’d find most of them in the various trash cans around the church. One Sunday, I was lamenting to my Sunday School Class how so very few members seemed to have any interest in knowing what their spiritual gifts are. A person in that class was very honest when he said, “Well pastor, you know why we don’t fill those things out, don’t you? If we know what our spiritual gifts are, you’re gonna want to put us to work!”
3. well ... yeah

A. GOD HAS GIFTED THE CHURCH WITH SUPERNATURAL ABILITIES FOR MINISTRY

1. in his letter to the Christians at Corinth Paul wrote: “Now concerning spiritual gifts brethren, I would not have you ignorant."
a. the church at Corinth was a distressing lot
1) there were all kinds of problems in that church
b. one of their problems was a misunderstanding of the nature and use of the charismatic gifts
2. 1st, Christians should not be ignorant of their conferral
a. all believers have a least one spiritual gift
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” (1 Corinthians 12:7, NIV84)
b. spiritual gifts are an important part of the gospel of grace
1) we are saved by grace—which means God justifies us in His sight
2) we grow by grace—which includes the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit as we are slowly transformed into the moral and spiritual image of Christ
3) we are endowed by grace—which means we are given abilities by the Holy Spirit which we would not have if they were not given
2. 2nd, Christians should not be ignorant of their distribution
a. not all believers have the same spiritual gift and those that do may use the very same gift in different ways
“All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:11, NIV84)
b. God has not made us all the same — He doesn’t want us to be
c. it was He who planned and designed our differences, unique capabilities, and variations in the Church
d. we should never expect all Christians to have the same spiritual gifts, but we should expect all Christian to use the spiritual gifts they have
3. 3rd, Christians should not be ignorant of their place
a. gifts of the Spirit are not personal badges of honor that mark the levels of achievement in piety
b. they are not insignia to distinguish God's elite
c. they are not rewards or trophies or brownie points given for spiritual achievement
d. they are not adornment for our private benefit
e. spiritual gifts are divine enablement for ministry and service
ILLUS. You have your gifts not for your own sake as for the sake of others. You are like an apple tree that produces fruit not for its own consumption but for the consumption of others. Your gifts are given so you can bless others by ministering to them. If you have the gift of teaching, you have it so others in the body will be taught. If you have the gift of hospitality, it is because others need the gracious welcome they receive from you.
4. if even one gifted person fails to function, the body of Christ is deprived of a ministry it needs to function well
If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8 if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully
Application: Christians are members of a body—the Body of Christ—who are gifted in order to humbly minister to each other. We do this because, according to Romans 12:2, this is the Father’s good, pleasing and perfect will.
In an interview a few years before his death, the American conductor, Leonard Bernstein, was asked which instrument was the most difficult to play. He thought for a moment and then replied, “The second fiddle. I can get plenty of first violinists, but to find someone who can play the second fiddle with enthusiasm – that’s a problem. And if we have no second fiddle, we have no harmony.” Friends, humility means always being willing to be second fiddle to our fellow believers. It doesn’t mean being second rate. Humility is not self-hatred or lack or self-confidence. Neither does it imply that a person becomes the proverbial doormat, allowing others to walk all over them. Nor does a humble person look down on themselves or their abilities. Humility simply understands that—in the culture of the Christian faith—one descends into greatness, and when we descend into greatness there is no one we are unwilling to serve.
Our service is fleshed out by using our spiritual gifts to ministry to each other as we help each other be conformed into the image of our Christ.
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