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  RESTRUCTURED THINKING ROMANS 12:1-8 “Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. (v2)

Last week we learnt the need for us to be made whole by living a life made of excellent character, attitude, and behaviour based on the true divine word of God that help in the integration of our body, spirit and soul to be working in harmony with each other so that we can be at peace with our self avoiding the controversy or war inside of us and be able to make peace with our Lord God from our former alienation from Him. Before we look into detail at the eight key attitudes which Lord Jesus outlines for His disciples at the start of the Sermon on the Mount: we remind ourselves of what we mean by the word ‘soul’. The soul (Greek psuche, from which we get the word ‘psyche’ and ‘psychology’, we said the soul is that part of us with which we think, feel, desire and make decisions –it is the rational, emotional and choosing parts of us. Psuche is the power or brain ability a body must have if it is to be a man, as sight and the power to chop are what objects must have to be eyes or axes. Psychologists are called psychologists because they work in the realm of the soul only without reference to what the spirit realm stands for, the soul attempting to sway and bring about and facilitate in people seemingly better co-ordination in the way they think, feel and decide without realizing that the man (born spirit) who work with soul and spirit harmonically will think, feel and decide differently, which is the best way that the Lord God designed it to be. This phenomenon is why there are two different people in the world! One of the current popular approaches to helping a troubled soul is what is called ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ (CBT). Cognitive behavioural therapy is a psycho-social intervention that aims to improve mental health. CBT focuses on challenging and changing unhelpful cognitive distortions and behaviours, improving emotional regulation, and the development of personal coping strategies that target solving current problems. The world experts have discovered that there is something wrong with people mentally but because they do not want to recognize the Lord God, hence they have busied themselves with the wrong approaches that give man no help. But last week we talked of the cognitive as Cognitive ability which may be defined as a “mental capability that … involves the ability to reason, plan, solve problems, think abstractly, comprehend complex ideas, learn quickly and learn from experience” for which all ability comes from the realm of the soul only and does not have any contribution from the God-governed divine Spirit realm because the propagators are men and women born of flesh who does not have any true Spirit idea. We learnt that unhealthy thoughts, desires, feelings, and decisions that normally emanates from the soul are challenged by the teachings of the beatitude of the Lord with the aim to then change them to ones which are more helpful depending on the individual’s ability to know the truth. If every Christian lived out the right attitudes which our Lord Jesus taught us in the Beatitudes, all things being equal, I am convinced there would be happy or fulfilled persons contrary to the many unhappy and unfulfilled persons in the in the world and in the Christian Church today. The problem is that we have failed to try to find out what we lack in our so called cognitive behavioural therapy compared to what we should be gaining in the Lord Jesus Sermon on the Mount called the Beatitude! When our soul is troubled or traumatized with life setbacks as we go about our daily pursuit of livelihood, we discover that we cannot do or live life by ourselves through our soul only and achieve the purpose of God in creating us, in other words, we realize and discover that we need God’s spirit in us to guide us in our daily life. Then as circumstances and vicissitudes of life forces us to admit our dependency and need of the Lord God’s provisions in life we find purity of heart...reminding us of the Lord’s teaching in the Beatitude saying ‘blessed are the pure in heart’, is your heart pure, a pure heart is one that thinks, reasons, desires, feels, decides and acts in line with God’s truth, the Lord Jesus said, I am the way and the truth! Have we truly believed that He is the way and the truth? Always be sure that what you harbour in your heart and mind at each point in time is in line with the Lord’s truth. When we achieve purity of heart by conditioning our minds and heart with the true word of God’s gospel and Scripture, then our arrogance and boast of being self-sufficient and independent of the Lord God now give way to our being meek and in our true meekness we recall the words of the Lord Jesus in His message in the beatitude saying-blessed are the meek! Have you become a meek person, one humbled by life trends! Our meekness in life now make us to realize that all that we are and all that we have, our possessions and achievements are from Lord God Almighty which make us realize and begin to know how poor in spirit we are reminding us again when the Lord Jesus taught us saying-blessed are the poor in spirit! Have you realized your state of being poor in spirit and has it started moulding your life to be God centred in everything that you do, putting God first? Again as we keep living our life on earth, our misfortunes and failures in life in our earthly undertakings awakens in us the realization that we cannot succeed in life unless God be with us and this connect us to the pains and difficulties associated with our dealings and working in the world for which we cannot help but mourn-reminding us of the Lord’s word saying-blessed are those who mourn! Are you mourning as you move ahead with your life struggles, does it give you heart pains especially when you fail where you have invested so much? Our state of mournfulness makes us in reality to think less of ourselves and thus become merciful to others as we sincerely and sympathetically feel for them and wonder how they are making it in life realizing how difficult it is with us then we remember-blessed are the merciful! Now in all of the above we realize and discover that we have nowhere else to go or run to, so we turn our gaze expectantly back to God...”we have gone afar, there is no other way, only Jesus is the way and truth”, and the longer we gaze expectantly at God in our hopelessness, we try to hunger and thirst for righteousness, hunger and thirst for God’s life and assistance, and we become peacemakers reconciling ourselves back to God and even back to our neighbour and we remember-blessed are the peacemakers! Once we begin to live life this way, this is the life type for which Christ’s disciples are willing to be persecuted, a life of sacrifice, a life of righteousness, a life that is more about good and sincere relationship, a life for which Christ died and rose again and teaches us to live same. To live the life of the beatitude is what the world finds very difficult hence in prescribing remedy or solution to a troubled soul due to life circumstances and vicissitudes the world psychologists wrongly or erroneously gave them as prescription in helping a troubled soul with what they called ‘cognitive behavioural therapy’ instead of giving them the beatitude because they lack the knowledge of the true prescription for healthy living as remedy and solution in the famous Lord Jesus sermon on the Mount called the Beatitude. No wonder the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 11:28 which says “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy-laden and overburdened, and I will cause you to rest. [I will [a]ease and relieve and [b]refresh [c]your souls.]”. Our character and our attitude is what determines what we are, what we are to be, and what we should be by the Lord Jesus’ standard, Thomas Jefferson 3rd President of the United States of America once said: “Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude”. A clergyman said, I have watched pitiably how people self-sabotage themselves by seeking spiritual solutions to character-deficit issues. They look around at everybody as a suspect for their predicaments when their greatest demon lurking within them is-their character and attitude. There is no amount of spiritual penance that can substitute for character and attitude, do not go for prayers when you can only solve it by a simple change of character, there is need to find ways of depositing God’s character and attitude into our bankrupt souls. What would ultimately destroy a man going to high places in life is not really the enemies that are waiting for him there, but the character that followed him there, so do not take character for granted and do not attempt to use prayer for what a right character would solve for you, do not neglect the place of character in our relationship with people, it is your behaviour and character that actually triggers God’s manifestation. In the Shunammite woman, it wasn’t prayer that opened the door for her; it was her character. We pray, fast and bind demons while our greatly flawed character is what we need to deal with. The Chinese built the wall, but forgot the character-building of the wall-guards, eventually the guards were bribed and the enemies came through the doors, reminding the Chinese the superiority of human character and attitude-which reminds me of the saying, “while men slept, the enemy came and sow tares into the harvest and went their way” as seen in Matthew 13:25, the Chinese realised much later that the best defence against the enemy is not a fortified wall, but a fortified character. Thus, the building of human character and attitude comes before building of anything else. The greatest fraud in life is religion without character! Hire character; train skills. During the German divide of East and West Berlin, one day some East Berlin people dump truck load of garbage on West Berlin side. The people of West Berlin could have done the same, but they did not. Instead they took a truck loaded with canned food, bread, milk and other provisions and neatly packaged and stacked it on the East Berlin side. On top of this stacked canned food and provisions, the West Berlin people wrote: “Each Gives What He Has”. Truly you can only give what you have, that is why you have to be-attitude before you can do-attitude! What do you have to give: Hate or Love? Violence or Peace? Life or Death? Capacity to Build or Capacity to Destroy? Which? “Each Gives What He Has” Dr James Fisher, a psychiatrist who carried out research into the positive qualities that make for good mental health, said: ‘I dreamed of writing a handbook that would be simple, practical, and easy to follow: it would tell people how to live –what character, thoughts and attitudes and philosophies to cultivate, to imbibe and what pitfalls to avoid in seeking good mental health. And by accident I discovered that such a work had already been completed in–the Beatitudes’ of the Lord Jesus Christ. How interesting! One wonders why it is that the Church, which possesses such an influential blueprint for healthy and abundant living does not make more of it that today her membership is virtually bereft of it, too bad!

  Christian Life: Where Are My Strengths? Romans 12:1-8

The summary of this chapter has to do with the renewal and transformation of the Body of Christ. Actress Whoopi Goldberg co-hosts a comedy show every year called Comic Relief. Her purpose is to help the nation’s homeless. According to a recent Readers’ Digest column, it is only one of the many charitable projects in which Whoopi Goldberg is involved. When asked why she donates her talent for such causes, she said, “I fear waking up in the morning and finding out my life was all for nothing. We are here for a reason. I believe a bit of the reason is to throw little torches out to lead people through the dark.” Whoopi Goldberg is far from being a theologian, but her comment illustrates that every human being is driven by this search for significance. We all want our lives to count for something. She has discovered that all the attention, all the wealth, all the notoriety the world has to offer really don’t satisfy the need of man. Solomon said, in Ecclesiastes 3:11 “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” So ultimate significance is found only in giving or surrendering one’s self to Jesus Christ because only Jesus Christ can grant eternal life. Only Jesus Christ can satisfy that spiritual hunger and thirst of the human soul and only Jesus Christ is really the torch to lead people out of darkness into the light. He said, “For whoever wants to save his [[a]higher, spiritual, eternal] life, will lose it [the [b]lower, natural, temporal life [c]which is lived only on earth]; and whoever gives up his life [which is lived only on earth] for My sake and the Gospel’s will save it [his [d]higher, spiritual life [e]in the eternal kingdom of God]” as seen in Mark 8:35. With all of the above in mind, let’s look at Romans 12:1-8. Let us begin by reading Romans 12:1-8 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]. 3 For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him. 4 For as in one physical body we have many parts (organs, members) and all of these parts do not have the same function or use, 5 So we, numerous as we are, are one body in Christ (the Messiah) and individually we are parts one of another [mutually dependent on one another]. 6 Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; 7 [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching; 8 He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.

  INTRODUCTION:

The apostle having at large cleared and confirmed the prime fundamental doctrines of Christianity, comes in the next place to press the principal duties. We mistake our religion if we look upon it only as a system of notions and a guide to speculation. No, it is a practical religion that tends to the right ordering of the conversation. It is designed not only to inform our judgments, but to reform our hearts and lives. From the method of the apostle’s writing in this, as in some other of the epistles (as from the management of the principal ministers of state in Christ’s kingdom) the stewards of the mysteries of God may take direction how to divide the word of truth: not to press duty abstracted from privilege, nor privilege abstracted from duty but let both go together, with a complicated design, they will greatly promote and befriend each other. The duties are drawn from the privileges, by way of inference. The foundation of Christian practice must be laid in Christian knowledge and faith. We must first understand how we receive Christ Jesus the Lord, and then we shall know better how to walk in Him. There is a great deal of duty prescribed in this chapter. The exhortations are short and pithy ((of speech or writing) expressing an idea cleverly in a few words), briefly summing up what is good, and what the Lord our God in Christ requires of us. It is an abridgment (a shortened form of a work retaining the general sense and unity of the original) of the Christian directory, an excellent collection of rules for the right ordering of the conversation, as becomes the gospel. It is joined to the foregoing discourse by the word “therefore”. It is the practical application of doctrinal truths that is the life of preaching. He had been discoursing at large justification by faith, and of the riches of free grace, and the pledges and assurances we have of the glory that is to be revealed. Hence carnal libertines would be apt to infer. Therefore the idea that we may live as we list, and walk in the way of our hearts as we pleases and the sight of our eyes as we desire does not apply and is not accepted. Now because a true Christian is not allowed to just live as he or she pleases, shows this does not follow the faith that is justified in a faith that “works by love”. And there is no other way to heaven but the way of holiness, righteousness and obedience to the Holy Spirit of God, the Scripture and the gospel. Therefore what God hath joined together according to the sequence of Christian belief, (in the way of holiness, righteousness and obedience to the Holy Spirit of God, the Scripture and the gospel) let no man put asunder, in other words let no man preach the Scripture and the gospel disjointedly out of context thus introducing error into it. The particular exhortations or encouragement to do the right thing of this chapter are reducible to the three principal heads of Christian duty: our duty to God; our duty to ourselves, and our duty to our brother. The grace of God teaches us, in general, to live “godly, soberly, and righteously” and to deny all that which is contrary hereunto. Now this chapter will lead us to understand what godliness, sobriety, and righteousness, are though somewhat intermixed. This passage talks about a proper evaluation of our strengths, our talents, which are to be used for God’s glory. If we understand and apply the four principles from this section, it will really help us to find eternal significance. The first principle is: remember your Priorities: as given in Verse 1: “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship.” In view of God’s mercy: God could have disowned us due to our sinful rebellious nature and our unrighteousness but instead or in view of His mercy the Lord God over looked all these and chose us based on the finished work of Lord Jesus Christ on the cross God declared us legally Law-keepers and righteous; thus He adopted us, He redeemed us, He sealed us as His very own children. Since God has been so merciful to us, our priority therefore ought to be to please and reverence Him, giving Him the highest priority in our life and not to impress people or arrogate self-sufficiency to ourselves. He says, “Don’t conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” Paraphrase that: “don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its mould but be transformed by the renewing of your mind and then you will prove what God’s will is, His good, pleasing and perfect will.” You see, the world around us is obsessed with image such as: what will people say? What will people think, desire, feel and decide? But the Christian renews his mind. We change our thinking, how we desire, feel, decide. We then realize that what is important is what God thinks, desire, feel, decide and not the people. Then with the renewed mind the idea becomes, is this activity on my calendar pleasing to God? Is this check that I am writing good stewardship of His money under my care? Is this conversation that I am having accomplishing His will? Is this thought pattern that I am nursing pleasing and honouring Him? When we seek the praise of God more than the praise of man, some people in the world will not understand us and they will try to squeeze us back into their mould. ILL: Jerome Hines was an extremely gifted Operatic bass singer and as a young man his goal was to sing and perform at the Metropolitan opera from 1946 to 87. He studied mathematics and chemistry at the University of California. He made all the necessary sacrifices. He took lessons on voice studies. He learned several different languages until he realized his boyhood dream and sang with the Metropolitan Opera. But one day, Jerome Hines heard George Beverly Shea sing in that mellow voice, “I’d rather have Lord Jesus than anything the world affords today.” That song really got to Hines and led him to give his life to Jesus Christ. From that time on, Hines continued to sing in the opera but he no longer sang for the advancement and fame of Jerome Hines or to please people. He looked for an opportunity to give glory to God Almighty. Several years later, Jerome Hines was offered a role he had always wanted. He signed the contract. He practiced for months. But when he went to the opera house for the first rehearsal, he was surprised to witness a lewd dance in the performance. Lewd dance means crude and offensive sexy dance. When he inquired about it, he was informed that they had modernized the opera and that dance was a part of the new choreography. Hines said, “I won’t sing if they have that dance” The general manager of the Metropolitan Opera informed him if he did not participate he was breaking his contract and he would be ostracized by management and blackballed from the opera but Hines stood his ground and he withdrew. He said, “I won’t use my talent to draw people in to see something like that.” That cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars and a role that he had wanted to play all of his life. He had decided that he really would rather have Lord Jesus than anything the world affords today. If you put God first in the use of your talent, you will attest and approve what God’s will is but the world may not understand you and will want to squeeze you back into their mould. So when it comes to the use of your talent, remember your priorities. You use your gift to please God, not to impress people. The second principle is to: realistically Evaluate your Gifts. Romans 12 Verse 3 says: “For by the grace (unmerited favor of God) given to me I warn everyone among you not to estimate and think of himself more highly than he ought [not to have an exaggerated opinion of his own importance], but to rate his ability with sober judgment, each according to the degree of faith apportioned by God to him.” Some people think more highly of themselves than they ought. ILL: A few years ago, boxer Mike Tyson boasted, “I am in trouble because I am slightly arrogant. A lot of people don’t like themselves and I happen to be totally in love with myself.” Rush Limbaugh boasts of being the most listened-to talk show host in the world. Recently athlete Deion Sanders said he was glad he signed a multimillion-dollar contract to play football for the Dallas Cowboys because the Cowboys have a star on their helmet and he said, “I have always been a star.” Now some of that self promotion is a part of the hype (ADVERTISE to try to make people think something is good or important by talking about it a lot on television) to sell tickets or to get attention, but there are a lot of people who genuinely think too highly of themselves. We have so emphasized a positive self-image that there are some people today who can strut sitting down. If you think too highly of your talent, it can actually be detrimental to you because you are not teachable or you are too ambitious or in some cases you are not repentable. Proverbs 16:18 warns “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Haven’t you known some young single men who had too high an opinion of their marriage, market-ability and they think they are God’s gift to women? They ought to marry Miss Nigeria and no girl that they date really measures up to their list, and they sit home alone a lot because they think too highly of themselves. Or pity their wives if they get married, because she never quite measures up to what he thinks he deserves. A young seminary graduate about 26 years of age asked me several years ago to help him find a church. I said, “What kind of church are you looking for.” He said, “Well I have my Ph.D. so I should not have to start out in a country church with 150 people. I think I ought to begin with a church in the suburbs of about 400.” About six months later he began to get a little hungry and thirsty and he decided that he would take an inner city church that had about 150 people, but he had such a condescending spirit toward those people there that it was never a great relationship and it was not a successful ministry. Have you ever channel surfed (Channel surfing is the practice of quickly scanning through different television channels or radio frequencies to find something interesting to watch or listen to. Modern viewers, who may have cable or satellite services beaming down dozens if not hundreds or thousands of channels, are frequently channel surfing) and stopped to watch some of the people who think too highly of their ability to sing Christian music on some of the public access television programs? They have this scratchy background tape and a poorly lit set in their home, an inadequate camera and they sing to their heart’s delight but to nobody else’s delight. Now I think people ought to sing to the glory of God regardless of their talent but it is another matter to get on television and embarrass the Kingdom of God and give an occasion for the enemies of Christ to ridicule simply because they don’t realistically evaluate their strength in light of the word of God. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought. But some people go to the other extreme and they think more lowly of themselves than they should. ILL: I have known some pretty fine women who lack confidence in themselves and they accepted dates from young men who did not deserve them at all. Some of them have stayed in an abusive relationship and they have kept coming back for more simply because of insecurity, not thinking of themselves to the degree that they ought to. I have seen people stay in dead-end jobs or service points, unhappy with their work every day but they just don’t have enough confidence to look for something better. Do you remember when God challenged Moses to go before Pharaoh and demand the release of the Israelite slaves, Moses felt inadequate and he said, “Oh no, God, they won’t believe me. I am not a very good speaker. Would you send somebody else.” The Bible does not say that God was pleased with Moses because of his humility. It says the wrath of God was kindled against Moses because of his lack of faith. An inferiority complex is not humility. Humility is finding out what God has gifted you to do and doing it with abandonment for His glory and not your own. In order to perform well there has to be some degree of confidence and belief in one’s self. In another illustration, Sir Lawrence Olivier, the actor, was asked what it took to be a good actor and he said, “Humility enough to prepare and confidence enough to pull it off.” So we have a responsibility as God’s people not to think too highly of ourselves or too lowly of ourselves but we are to think of ourselves objectively having the right confidence and courage. Think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Now how are you going to evaluate yourself? Let me suggest three things: First, take a test. There are all kinds of aptitude tests available today, Myers-Briggs Personality Assessment (A self-report questionnaire, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® or MBTI® is an assessment tool that aids in determining a person's personality type. ... In reality, MBTI is all about the person's preferences, meaning there are no right or wrong answers in taking this assessment), the DISC Personality Profile (DISC Personality Profiles help you understand how you show emotion according to four main behaviours: dominance (D), influence (I), steadiness (S), and conscientiousness (C). Since a person cannot be summed up in just one word, the DISC acronym is used as a memory aid) in the corporate world. You take these tests and they tell you where your strengths and where your passions are if you don’t know them. Gary Smalley and John Trent have written a book for children called The Treasure Tree. The children read the book with their parents and at the end there is a series of questions to help the child discover his or her gifts. It is helpful to take these tests and know where our strengths are. The second thing we can do is try it out. One of the best ways to discover your giftedness is to experiment and see how it goes. Lord Jesus criticized the one talent man because he buried his gift in the ground and never used it. He commended the two and five talent people because they experimented. They took the risk and they doubled their investment. I did not know in high school that I had any leadership gifts until my high school football coach asked me to play quarterback and appointed me the captain of the team said a narrator. I discovered that I could persuade some people to follow. If I had not been forced to try, I would not have discovered that gift of soccer and leadership in me. How are you going to know whether or not you can teach, if you don’t try? How are you going to know whether you can help heal emotional wounds of people, if you have never been in compassion or love to counsel somebody? How are you going to know whether you can work with teenagers or not if you don’t try? How are you going to know whether you can make money and give generously if you don’t try to invest? So experiment! If you take a class and it goes from 15 to 30 in a few months time that should be an affirmation. If it goes from 20 down to 10 in a few weeks then try singing or trading or other businesses or try something else! The third thing you can do to know your strengths is to ask a friend. Honest Christian friends can help evaluate your strengths. Now don’t ask them, “Do you think I teach well?” That kind of question puts people on the spot, or edge, or off and most of us under that situation have a hard time being honest or say, “Well, not very well.” Rather give them an option and say, “You have heard me teach and you have seen me work out in the yard; which do you think I do better?” Give them a chance to tell you. .” If you have friends who are truthful with you, don’t get bent out of shape and angry with them when they tell you the truth, because nobody is gifted in every area. Listen to their counsel and try to focus on other area they are pointing you to. Don’t think of yourself more highly than you ought to. Think of yourself with sober judgment in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. The third principle is to: refuse to compare yourself with other people. Just as each of us has one body with many members and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we who are many form one body and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given us. One of the primary reasons we feel insignificant is we are always comparing ourselves to others in our field of interest. ILL: I get a magazine called Preaching. In the middle of one magazine there is a full-page ad for a leadership seminar that is conducted annually at the Crystal Cathedral in California. There was a picture of Robert Schuller and a picture of about a dozen preachers who are going to lead that seminar: John Maxwell, Bill Hybels, and other preachers from across the nation. But you know what: my picture is not on that page. Do you know why? Because I have never been asked to speak at that conference! Said the narrator! Now if I compare myself to other preachers I can get down on myself. “Oh,” you say, “not you, Bob. You have spoken at a number of conferences. You have a large church.” But we all have a tendency to compare ourselves with those in our field who have more influence or more popularity or a bigger title or somebody who is making more money. As a result, we are never satisfied. We are jealous. Never quite feeling as significant as we would like. But this passage urges us not to fall into that trap of comparing and competing with one another because just as a body has different members with different functions, so we have different gifts but one body. When God created this physical body He knew exactly what He was doing. He gave us two eyes so we would have peripheral vision. He gave us two ears so we would hear in stereo. He gave us two nostrils so that if we lived in the Valley we would have a 50/50 chance of breathing out of one of them, because down the depth chances of getting oxygen reduces or might be slim. He knows what He is doing when He creates this physical body and He knows what He is doing when He creates His church. Like members of the body of Christ we all have different gifts, and as such we are expected to use it effectively in our daily lives as Christians. ILL: A narrative goes thus: Yesterday morning I attended our prayer seminar meeting in the fellowship hall. There are about 200 people trying to deepen their ability to pray. I stood up to stretch and looked out of the window and about 200 people just walked out of the driveway and were beginning to march down Hikes Lane in a March for Life. A few minutes later when I walked to the car there were about 15 people working among the shrubs and on the grounds trying to beautify the landscape. On the way home I remembered that the day before a handful of our people had gone to the Ukraine on a short-term mission trip. Not all of these things were happening simultaneously. Not everybody can pray like this but there are some people who are especially gifted to be prayer warriors. Everybody ought to be interested in missions but God has called some and has gifted some to be able to adapt to a foreign environment and take the gospel to other countries. I think we ought to all be for life. But I think the Lord has called some people to take a public stand and a public testimony. Everybody ought to be concerned about the condition of the buildings and grounds but God has gifted some with a green thumb. If we don’t understand that, not only will we compare and feel bad about ourselves but we will become critical of other people because they are not involved in the same area as we are. So some are gifted to preach He said, some to serve, some to teach, some to encourage, some to make money and give, some to lead, some to show mercy. Once you understand that, you are more likely to quit competing with others. But we not only have different gifts — we have different measures of the same gift. He says in verse 6, “Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith”, if a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. Some have the gift of preaching with five talents and some the gift of preaching with one talent. Some people are so gifted in singing they ought to sing on national television and some people are gifted enough to sing in the choir. They have the same gift but different measures of the same gift. Some are gifted to lead enough to be the CEO of a company and others ought to be a foreman. Some are gifted to make money and multiply it and ought to be giving millions and others just make enough to tithe and be generous each week. We need to evaluate not only where our strengths are but to have a realistic assessment of the degree of our gift. The one talent person should not be comparing himself with a five talent person or else he is always going to feel jealous. The five talent person should not be comparing herself with the one talent person or she is going to get lazy or have a condescending spirit that will not allow him or her to advance properly. We have different measures of the same gift. ILL: I spoke in a senior citizens’ conference in Phoenix, Arizona a while back. I did the best I could. I spoke several times. After the second session, a man came up to me in the lobby and he said, “Do you know Wayne Smith.” He knew I was from Kentucky and I said, “Why, yes I do. Wayne preaches just 90 miles down the road in Lexington.” He said, “Well, Wayne Smith spoke for this convention last year and he was fantastic. He was the funniest person I think I have ever heard. He had us in stitches.” I said, “Yeah, he is a real scream.” He said, “You know he not only was funny, he was inspirational. His message was so great, after he was finished we took up a special offering for an orphanage and we collected $4,000.” He said, “Would you do me a favour.” I said, “What’s that?” He said, “When you see Wayne Smith would you tell him I said hello.” I said, “I will do that.” He turned to walk away and then stopped and turned around and said, “Hey. Good talk.” When I saw Wayne Smith I told him about it and he just guffawed or laughed loudly and heartily. I said, “Wayne what are you laughing about.” He said, “Do you know what I used out there? I used your sermon series on Joseph.” Wayne used my stuff and he went over better than I did! If I compare myself to Wayne, it could destroy my self confidence. But to be honest with you, I recognize that Wayne has a special gift of humour and he has a special gift to go into an audience he has never met before and have an instant rapport that I don’t have. I also know that I have a gift to write sermons that he does not have. I have a gift to teach the Bible that he does not have. When somebody compliments Wayne, you know I can really rejoice over that because nobody loves Wayne Smith more than I. I don’t compare us because I recognize we have different gifts. Different measures of the same gift. That same principle applies to your field, whatever it is — whether you are an accountant, a coach, a teacher, in medicine, whether you are an airplane pilot, receptionist. All comparisons are silly because we are created so differently. ILL: Kathy Rigby had a dream to win a gold medal in the Olympics in Munich in the 70s, so she trained as a gymnast. It came time for her to perform. She was nervous yet she did well, but she was devastated that she did not win a gold medal. She did not even win a silver or a bronze medal. Fighting back the tears, she went up and sat with her parents and then she sobbed to her mother, “Mom, I did the best I could.” Her mother said, “Kathy, I know that and your dad knows that and God knows that.” Then Kathy Rigby said that her mother spoke ten words that she has never forgotten and it boosted her spirits. Her mother said, “Doing your best is more important than being the best.” God is not comparing you with anybody. He is evaluating us according to our potential and according to our opportunities. It is silly to try to get our sense of significance out of beating somebody else because we all have different gifts and different measures of the same gift. So in a 100 meters race Tom and Jay has the same 100 meters racing gifts or ability but Jay’s 100 meters race gift is more in measure than that of Tom and as such when the two enters in the same 100 meters race Jay would surely come out best. The last principle: remain focused in the area of your strength. Romans 12:6-8 says: “Having gifts (faculties, talents, qualities) that differ according to the grace given us, let us use them: [He whose gift is] prophecy, [let him prophesy] according to the proportion of his faith; 7 [He whose gift is] practical service, let him give himself to serving; he who teaches, to his teaching; 8 He who exhorts (encourages), to his exhortation; he who contributes, let him do it in simplicity and liberality; he who gives aid and superintends, with zeal and singleness of mind; he who does acts of mercy, with genuine cheerfulness and joyful eagerness.” Wrong interpretation: If a man’s gift is prophesying then let him learn to serve. If a man’s gift is teaching let him go on encouraging. If a woman is a good encourager then let her learn to contribute to the needs of others.” That is not what it says, is it? It says if your gift is prophesying, that is what you are supposed to do, prophesy. If your gift is teaching, you stay with teaching. It goes on to say you do it generously. You do it diligently. You do it cheerfully. That sounds so basic but it is amazing how many people get off focus and misinterpret it. When you have discovered your primary area of giftedness, stay focused in your area of strength and your area of passion and you will be fulfilled in life. I talk to a lot of young men who say they are burned out in the ministry. They felt a call to preach and they love to preach but they get into the church and they suddenly get bogged down in administration, organizing programs, going to the nursing home, raising funds. Their call to preach, which is their primary gift, gets shoved to the side and Sunday morning comes along and they get by on talent. But they know they are not doing it to the fullest, to the extent of their ability and they feel empty about it. I see school teachers who are excellent in the classroom so they get bumped up to counselling and then to administration. They don’t feel quite as comfortable in that role but they get paid more money so they stay with it. But they don’t feel nearly as fulfilled as they did when they were teaching. Sales people who get promoted to sales manager or vice president and they are not with people the way they once were. They cannot understand why they are not as energized or gratified by what they are doing. Whatever God has gifted you to do and whatever is your passion in life, you focus on that and develop that to the best of your ability. Jim Fox said, “My father always told me, find the job you love and then you will never have to work the rest of your life.” That is probably a bit of an oversimplification but the point is well taken. Find your gift and your passion in life and give yourself diligently and cheerfully to it. It may not be what others want for you. It may not be what you dreamed about when you were a child but if it is what God ordained and gifted you to do you will find significance and be energized by it. Someone observed, “We can’t be anything we want to be. But we must be what God ordained us to be.” I think we do our children a real disservice when we tell them “you can be anything you want to be and you can do anything you want to do” because that is not true. They may not be intellectually gifted enough to be a doctor. They may not be talented enough to be the artist that they dream of being. They may not be big enough or agile enough physically to be the professional athlete that they would like to be. We can’t be just anything we want to be. We must be what God has gifted us and ordained us to be. Success and significance in life is finding what your strengths are—the gifts God has given and then giving ourselves fully in that area for the glory of God and not self. I want to close with a thought from Rick Warren. God gave me the gift to preach not for my benefit but for yours. If I don’t use my gift, I cheat you. God gave you a gift, not for your benefit but for other people. If you don’t use your gift, you cheat others. God has given different gifts to the body for the building up of the body. When you use your gift fully for the glory of God, you begin to light little torches along the way to show people through the darkness to the light of Jesus Christ.

  Conclusion:

All churches function through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That is a simple, theological truth. For some, that will manifest itself as what we call ‘charismatic worship’. For others, it will manifest itself in the quiet, contemplative atmosphere of the monastery. Both are charismatic in the true sense because both are reliant on the gifts of the Spirit. And so, in the broadest sense, Paul is calling us back to being a charismatic community, wholly reliant on the gifts of the Spirit in our corporate life together. And that charismatic community will inevitably be diverse because God has given a diversity of gifts. It stands to reason, doesn’t it? We are not one body despite our diversity. We are one body because of our diversity. Our diversity is to be celebrated, not suppressed. If everyone was an ear, and the body of Christ was just one, giant ear, it would be a monster! If everyone was a toenail, and the body of Christ was just one, giant toenail, it would be useless and very ugly. But we are diverse; we are ears and eyes and toenails and hearts and livers and tongues and added together, with the diversity working in unity, the body of Christ is very beautiful indeed. So we celebrate our diversity and we thank God for it… And then Paul goes on in verses 6-8, to describe some of the functions of the body. Pride of place goes to prophecy, and that is because prophecy is the speaking out of God’s word into a situation and so there is nothing without prophecy. If there are no prophets, the church cannot function because the church cannot hear the word of God into its situation. However, we need to be a bit careful here because there are two Greek words for prophecy, which carry quite different meanings. One word is ‘mantis’, which is the type of prophetic behaviour that is spontaneous; when a revelation of God is given to a person and that person immediately speaks it out. But Paul doesn’t use the word ‘mantis’ (which means is the symbol of peaceful meditation, silence in prayer, and mindfulness) here. Instead, he uses the word ‘prophetes’ (which means In religion, a prophet is an individual who is regarded as being in contact with a divine being and is said to speak on that entity's behalf, serving as an intermediary with humanity by delivering messages or teachings from the supernatural source to other people), which has a more ordered behaviour attached to it; a more considered approach by which the prophet acts as a spokesperson for God into the community in the sense that a priest would have spoken for God in the Temple. It is that type of prophecy that stands at the head of the list so that the church can hear God’s word to them and then live it out in its corporate life. Next, Paul mentions ‘serving’ and this word has a wide range of meanings. But it’s likely that Paul meant it here as an ad hoc approach; meeting people’s needs as they arise rather than dedicating ourselves to a ‘life of service’ as it were. Then Paul refers to ‘teaching’, which, of course, can be closely aligned to prophecy in the sense that Paul has just used that idea. But as a gift of the Spirit, teaching is not just the passing on of information but is instead a more interpretative role: the teacher gains the knowledge and then discerns the import of that knowledge and how it should be passed on for the benefit of those he or she is teaching. Next comes the gift of ‘encouragement’, which is a beautiful gift to have, how the church needs encouragers! There is nothing more wearying for leaders, nothing more destructive of Christian community than those people who see it as their life’s work to whinge and moan and complain and undermine. How much more beautiful to be an encourager. How much more Christlike to encourage and support, even if that does involve constructive criticism and occasional chastisement. Next comes those who ‘share in sincere concern’ and there is something of the spirit of generosity here as these people share willingly of their own possessions and goods for the well-being of others. Again, there is something so beautiful about the person who doesn’t cling to their own possessions but sees everything as a gift from God to be shared with others. Then comes the one ‘who cares with zest’. And this word, takes on the sense of being a protector: someone in the Christian community who is able to look out for those who are vulnerable or on the margins or being denied their rights. Perhaps someone with wealth or social standing in the wider community or someone who has the knowledge and ability to advocate for the oppressed. And then finally, we have those who ‘do acts of mercy’. Perhaps Paul has in mind here people who actively work on behalf of the poor and needy. So this list isn’t complete by any means, but there are some beautiful ministries outlined here: Speaking God’s word into a church community, Meeting the needs of people as they arise, Teaching and interpreting the word of God to others, Encouraging others, Sharing possessions with those in need, Advocating on behalf of those who have no voice, Meeting the needs of the poor. It would not be bad visions to have to see each of these ministries come to maturity in our own church. Then we truly would begin to reflect Christ to the world, wouldn’t we? And so Paul sums all that up, and begins to relate it to further instructions in a beautiful and simple phrase in Romans 12 verse 9 which reads: “9 [Let your] love be sincere (a real thing); hate what is evil [loathe all ungodliness, turn in horror from wickedness], but hold fast to that which is good.” That’s it – that is the sum total of the Gospel life. “[Let your] love be sincere”. That is our calling as Christians: to share sincere love with one another and with the community around us. That is our ultimate calling as a Church. In this passage, Paul calls us to the renewal and transformation of our minds and, in the power of the Holy Spirit, we believe that God is constantly renewing and transforming House of Joseph so that we fulfil our destiny as the people of God for this generation. In this passage, Paul calls us not to be conformed to the present age. Let’s do all we can to move forward together as the Body of Christ into the future that God has for us to.

  

Father, I long not just to live, but to live well. This is what You promise me through Your Son. Help me to learn, listen and obey Your Word. In Your name Lord Jesus I ask it. Amen!