Using Our Gifts - Part 1

Sun, Oct 28, 2018
Teacher: Tom Blackford
Passage: Romans 12:3-8
Duration:35 mins 22 secs

Message text

Using Our Gifts, Part 1
Romans 12:3-8

Good morning. Today we are going to continue to look at Romans 12. Just as a reminder if you hear me say anything that is not according to scripture please let me know and we can look at it together. In general I will be using the New King James or the King James Version for reference. We’ve already talked about presenting ourselves as living sacrifices to God. We talked about not being conformed to this world, but being transformed by the renewing of our minds. We saw that there is no middle ground, if we do not become transformed by the renewing of our minds we will be conformed to the world. This morning I would like to continue in our study of this chapter beginning at verse three and continuing through verse 8. Please turn there with me now.

Romans 12:3-8 – “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.”

It has been said that even the brightest people use only about 11% of their brains capacity. When I think about that particular statistic I realize how many use much less than that! It makes one wonder, what kind of place would this world be if we all used more of our brain? What if we used 100%? Certainly it would be a different world.

I wondered, if we get by as well as we do by using only this small portion, what if we could access all there is to access in the human mind and put it to use? Then I thought about that in terms of God’s word as well. If we do as well as we do using only small portions of the resources that God has placed before us, (what Paul describes here as gifts), what could we do if we used more of what He has given us? What would it be like if we would use, to the full extent, the gifts that God has given us as individuals? I strongly suspect that things would be different.

The purpose of living as sacrifices to God (vs. 1-2) is not mystical or monastic but eminently practical. It’s not simply coming to a thought or an idea. It is the renewal of our mind toward God so that we can put into practice what God has revealed to us and use it in our everyday lives.

It is for the purpose of devotion. Devotion is for the purpose of worship. Worship is to please God. Those two things are very intimately connected. Devotion and worship are connected to our active obedience and ministry to the Lord.

When I think about the particular passages that we’ve looked at already, the aspect of being given over to God and devoted to God and renewing our minds to give ourselves to God, I recognize there is practical application for us. That’s where Paul goes in the remainder of chapter 12. He talks about practical applications. He talks about what it means to be living sacrifices. As a transformed person, God expects us to do something. We are expected to be involved. He expects us to use the gifts He has given us to serve and be involved in service. Isn’t that what he said in verse one?
This is your reasonable service to offer yourselves as sacrifices unto God. Then Paul goes on to explain what he means.

Now keep that in mind as we continue to look at the passages. Verses three through eight will give us an outline of how we are to use the gifts that God provides for us or at least it is encouragement for our usefulness to Him. We need to look at our own lives and ask ourselves whether we are very useful to God. In the whole scheme of things do we play a part? Is that part important or significant? By that I do not mean important in the sense that we see importance, but important in the sense that we actually bear fruit in the efforts that are going on.

Do we play a part? Do we serve? In the next few verses the apostle outlines 3 important elements of our usefulness to God:
1) The proper attitude of serving;
2) The proper relationship of serving;
3) The proper activity of serving

I. The Proper Attitude of Serving: Humility. Let’s begin at: Romans 12:3 – “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.” Humility in our attitude of using gifts. This is vitally important because sometimes it is the use of gifts, even the active use of gifts that can become a threat to humility in us. If someone has a lot of talent, or has a lot of resources, they can be threatened by pride and arrogance. We have to be careful about that. It should not surprise us that when Paul is talking about our utilizing ourselves in the service of God, that he prefaces it with a remark, and a commandment, concerning attitude. The effectiveness of what we do and the validity of what we do is very much determined by the attitude that goes along with it. This morning let’s look at humility in more detail and see how Paul addresses it.
A. Notice how Paul begins his admonition: “through the grace given to me”. The word for grace is a common New Testament word that is sometimes translated as grace and sometimes translated as gift. I believe the word grace here as Paul uses it refers to Paul’s commission to preach the gospel. We might identify this “grace” as his apostleship. Paul was given something. He was given a gift. Being an apostle was not something that he had earned.
1. Nobody understood that better than Paul. It was given to him as an act of grace. He was one who had previously blasphemed against God and persecuted God and Christ. Now he was given the ability and the power through the Holy Spirit to preach the truth of God through inspiration. It was a gift.
2. Notice that Paul’s admonition to humility is given humbly. He would not be one to stand before others and say you cannot think too highly of yourself if he thought too highly of himself. Paul has to show an example to others in the gifts that God has given to him and the way that God has blessed his life. It didn’t go to his head. He was always humble before God and recognized that what he had was by the grace of God.
3. This also teaches us that humility does not preclude authority or leadership. Paul was admonishing with the authority of an apostle, but he humbly refers to the source of this authority as a grace given to him by God. Paul in this passage is recognizing his position before God. He knew that the thrust of what he said did not come from him, but comes from the One who gave it to him.
4. Paul was able to be humbly authoritative because he recognized his position before God. He was able to be a humble leader because he recognized his position before God. He could never rightfully ask another to be humble if he failed to be humble himself. Paul begins by saying it is through the grace that was given to me, because I have already received a gift, and I recognize this is what I need to say to you.
B. He says “to everyone who is among you”. He addresses these words to every Christian. That’s important for us to recognize. There are some of us who have more difficulty in this area than others. Who among us is not tempted to think of themselves more highly than they should?
1. We are always tempted to put more attention on our needs or what’s going on with us or how things affect us. The aspect of being absorbed in ourselves is part of our human experience. Its part of the world we live in with the propensity of the flesh to conform, and follow Satan rather than to follow God.
2. Renewing our minds is not just a matter of functioning differently or picking out certain activities. It’s a matter of changing the way we think. Paul says that pride is everybody’s problem. Paradoxically, even spiritual growth and knowledge can be a source of human pride. Even when we receive all of the rewards and honors of godly living, those very things may quite easily, and often do, lead to pride, conceit, arrogance, and self-righteousness, which are totally abhorrent to God.
C. Paul continues; “not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think...” Human pride is a continuing problem for us and the world reinforces that attitude. When we think we’ve overcome our pride it might be that our pride has overcome us. In the original language, Paul uses a form of ‎phroneo ‎(to think) four times in verse 3. He talks about thinking and thinking highly and thinking soberly. In the first instance he attaches the prefix “hyper” which means to exceed, or go beyond.
1. You might say that part of the problem is sometimes we think too much! Let me explain, it’s not thinking too much about things, not thinking too much about scripture. The subject and object of our thinking is that we think too much about ourselves. We think of it in terms of outright pride but sometimes we think too much of ourselves in the quantity of time we spend on ourselves.
2. A Christian is not to exceed in his estimation of himself, but to think of himself as he really is. We spend our time focused on us because, to us, we’re more important than anything or anybody else. Paul would call us to not exceed our estimation of ourselves. “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3). Staying focused on ourselves and thinking we are more than we are, is a form of self deception. It’s not reality. It’s thinking something’s true that’s not really true. That’s where Paul is going to take this discussion. The instruction that he’s giving us is not to be self-absorbed, not to think that which is not real and not to be deceived.
3. Paul’s self estimation in 1 Timothy 1:13ff would not make a very acceptable resume today. He referred to himself as a former blasphemer and persecutor and an insolent man. In his own words he was the chief sinner. Paul spoke badly about himself as he talked about his previous life.
i. Why would Paul say those things about himself? He told the truth. That was reality. He was one who was leading the fight against Christianity at one time.
ii. However talking bad about one’s self is not synonymous with being humble. A lot of people, who are willing to talk about themselves in very low terms, actually do it because they want to—draw attention. That activity itself might be evidence of pride.
iii. Paul was humble because he understood what he was and the work of God in his life. He understood his position before God. He said “God enabled me... putting me in the ministry ...I obtained mercy”[para] (1 Timothy 1:12-16)
iv. We should not think too highly of ourselves, but we need to think highly of God and put God in the proper position in our lives. God is always held above ourselves.
4. God could use Paul because he was willing to be humble. Paul is not alone in teaching this. Peter admonished all elders in the church, young and old, to “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5).
5. It is a sad reality that those who think too highly of themselves often think too poorly of others. This sort of thinking is a natural fruit of pride. We not only think we’re good, but we think others are not as good. We easily dismiss others or seek to put them down. Peter says the opposite is true.
i. True humility requires that I submit to others, allowing them to lead. 1 Peter 5:5 – “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Notice in this passage that he says “all of you be submissive to one another”. We know there are God ordained roles. Children are to be obedient to their parents. Wives are to be submissive to their husbands. Congregations are to submit to the rule of the eldership. Submissiveness is an aspect of our relationship with each other. We can not claim true humility unless we allow others to lead us and submit to what they say and what they do.
ii. True humility keeps me from hypocritically judging my brother – James 4:10-11 – “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up. 11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.” James, as he does on a couple of occasions, connects this aspect of faith and activity. If you sit around and complain about other folks you dismiss yourself as a doer of the law and you are a judge of the law.
iii. True humility causes me to treat every brother with the same mind and compassion. He who speaks evil of his brother is judging his brother. He has put himself in a rank over his brother. True humility forbids this because it requires us to treat everyone alike. This is a real challenge for us, and it’s been a challenge for people all along.
iv. In every society there have been social ranks. There have been those who have and those who have not. There have been those who were masters and those who were servants, those who were leaders and those who were followers. There has always been this aspect of social class and rank. The gospel transcends all of that and puts the Christian in the position of equality among all. True humility makes us have the mind and the compassion to make that possible.
v. Later in Romans 12 Paul admonishes them to “15. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Romans 12:15-16)
vi. If we treat each other with equality we must first work on ourselves to make sure that we’re not thinking too highly of ourselves, that we are not arrogant about ourselves. It is just a fact that when we think too highly of ourselves the natural fruit is we will think less of others.
vii. Scripture gives us an example in Diotrephes. God (and John) opposed Diotrephes because he sought preeminence above others. (3 John) How did that bear out in his life? He did not receive the brethren, and talked against the apostles. He put other people out of the church. He threw them out and spoke evil against them because he wanted to be first. This has played out in religion ever since.
viii. True humility means esteeming others better than myself. I am to treat everyone equally whatever their social status, or economic status, or political status. I must treat everyone equally AND at the same time in my mind I must esteem them better than myself. Philippians 2:3 – “ 3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.” Paul’s ambition was for us to esteem others better than ourselves.
6. Let me pose this question: Don’t we find at times that it’s not too difficult to esteem someone better then us because there are folks that are better than us, even in the eyes of the world? While you are mulling that over; What if we think someone is not better than us, are we to force ourselves to think that maybe they are better than us? That’s not the context of the passage, that is not the mind of Christ. What does Paul think we are to do then?
D. “but to think soberly” – The phrase indicates “clear thinking” or according to reality. The opposite of thinking soberly is thinking too highly of ourselves. What does soberly mean here? The intoxicated person loses their inhibitions, is not the same person they are in reality and they make poor judgments. When they sober up, they return to reality and are able to make good judgments again. Also when they sober up they may realize they acted stupidly. Now they are thinking soberly and see the world as it really is. That analogy helps us understand what Paul is saying here in the spiritual sense.
1. To think too highly is to see things different from reality. We think we’re great, but we’re not. We think we’re something, we’re not. We think we’ve accomplished great things, we haven’t. The reality is that we’re not much.
2. That’s not a very popular message today. Many folks think that’s a destructive message. They think people ought to be told they’re good people and be told that they accomplished much. We are not to suffer from a low self-esteem. To that point, we certainly do have to recognize our worth. After all, Jesus died for us and that in itself tells us that God decided what we are worth by what He sacrificed to save us.
3. Paul warned the Corinthians against making judgments about themselves and others which would promote pride. 1 Corinthians 4:6 – “6 Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.”
4. We have to think soberly of ourselves and learn not to think above that which is written. We should not make judgments about ourselves and others that would promote pride.
E. Let’s look at the next part “As God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.” There are differing views concerning Paul’s meaning here.
1. Some say that the “measure of faith” is a portion of faith that God gives to each Christian. This portion of faith differs from one person to another and is defined by our abilities and responsibilities. In this view the scripture here is seen as mystical and arbitrary.
2. Moses Lard says that this “measure of faith” refers to the miraculous portion of faith that was given to some as an accompaniment to a miraculous spiritual gift (such as prophecy). One who had this gift was not to go beyond the degree of revelation that went along with that gift. They were not meant to think of themselves more highly than what God revealed about that particular gift. Certainly Paul does warn those who have received miraculous gifts to not think one’s gift is more important than another’s. There is another view.
3. R.L. Whiteside disagrees with the view that the portion of faith only has to do with miraculous activity. He states that the term “measure” as it is used in scripture indicates “a measuring instrument” (like a ruler would be called a measure or a scale). It’s used as a measure to measure something else, a standard. In this sense, the objective faith that God has given is the measuring stick by which we measure our thinking.
i. I must, therefore, govern my self evaluation by what I believe concerning God’s revealed will. My self evaluation can not be measured by what others think of me or what I think I’ve accomplished. How do I know who I am? How do I know what I’m worth? How do I know how to estimate myself?
ii. There is a ruler, a measure, given by the revelation of faith that God has provided for me. Scripture. If I spend time in the faith given, if I spend time measuring myself by that standard, I will not think of myself too highly.
4. It is baffling that people who spend a lot of time with the Bible come away thinking they should raise themselves up or that true religion is raising their self-esteem when those who served God before said just the opposite about themselves. I’m fairly certain that modern religionists would have an issue with John the Baptist. I can hear them saying “You should not go around talking about not being worthy to tie a person’s shoe.” “You can’t talk about yourself that way.”
i. In the context of what today some might think of as disparaging speech, there is a Bible concept of who Jesus was. John the Baptist knew who Christ was and held Him up for who He was. In this way John the Baptist was able to serve God because of his humility.
ii. One commentator said; “No one under the influence of the teaching of the scriptures, and thereby regulated and controlled, can ever become egotistical. There is no quality of human behavior more contrary to the spirit of the Master than egotism.”
iii. That’s true, isn’t it? What we recognize in Paul’s words is that humility is a prerequisite to serving.
F. Humility as a Prerequisite to Service. When we read the scriptures can we see the attitude of those who serve?
1. I heard a story about a young man who wrote a letter to the elders of the church, expressing his disappointment that he had not been used for song leading and preaching as often as he thought he should be. He stated confidently, “I have the knowledge and experience that would be an asset to any congregation.”
2. Perhaps he did, but the attitude indicated by those words is different from the attitude of those whom the Lord has always considered an asset among His people. What kind of people can God use? Let’s consider those He did use.
i. First let’s consider Moses. Moses was confident at the age of 40 that he had qualities that would enable him to deliver God’s people from Egyptian bondage, but he failed miserably. After forty years as a shepherd his attitude toward himself changed. When God called him to do the work his response was, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11). God never told him he was somebody. Once Moses was humble enough to recognize his own limitations God could use him.
ii. Then there was Gideon. Gideon was totally surprised when the Angel of the Lord addressed him as a “mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). He was even more taken aback when the angel said, “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites.” To this he replied, “0 my Lord, how can I save Israel? Indeed my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house:” He was already a man accomplished in battle, but he did not view himself as one who could win everything with his own strength. God’s use of this humble man to gain a notable victory is well known.
iii. Think about Saul. Very good example to us all of how pride destroys. Saul’s response when he was called to be king over Israel was, “Am I not a Benjamite, of the smallest of the tribes of Israel, and my family the least of all the families of the tribe of Benjamin. Why then do you speak like this to me?” (1 Samuel 9:21). Saul’s response was: I’m nobody. I’m not the person to do this. Later God made a point of the fact that this was his attitude when he was anointed. “When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel? And did not the Lord anoint you king over Israel?” (1 Samuel 15:17). After Saul started to disobey God he became great in his own eyes, even to the point of substituting his own wisdom for that of God. Then God said through Samuel, “You have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel” (1Samuel 15:17, 19, 26).
iv. Then there’s Isaiah. Isaiah felt himself entirely unworthy of the great vision God granted to him in the temple in Isaiah 6:1-4. His reaction: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts.”
v. Jeremiah, when called by God to be a prophet replied, “Ah, Lord God! Behold I cannot speak, for I am a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6).
vi. Now for another example, Simon Peter. Simon Peter‘s proclamation, “though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended” (Matthew 26:33). Everybody may leave but not me. I will never leave you. That attitude was not only a profession of faith, but I believe, ultimately a liability for Peter. It was that boastful attitude that gave Satan a cause to come in. It was only after contrition and a repentance that God was able to come back to Peter. Then he was ready to tend the Lord’s sheep (John 21:15-17).
vii. Saul of Tarsus was useless to the Lord when his resume was: “circumcised the eight day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6). His usefulness flourished, however, when he had come to say, “I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am” (I Corinthians 15:9-10).

In Romans 12 the next verses describe active service. Next we’ll talk about actually doing things to encourage the church, as the body of Christ, to accomplish its work through 100% of the members using 100% of the gifts that God has given. That will make a difference.

Can we imagine what a different world this would be if that happened everywhere? Before we get there we must check the attitude. Let us begin by cultivating that attitude behind the service. Let’s humble ourselves before God that we might serve. Nobody, but nobody, ever deserved salvation. Even the fulfillment of conditions upon which God gives salvation cannot merit the gift. It is a gift.

Next week we will begin verse four, the Lord willing, and go through verse eight and talk about the relationship and serving God.

We’re about to be led in the invitation song. If you’re here and you’re not a Christian, it is our sincere desire for you to come to Christ in all humility. We do not invite you to come to a church or a religious organization, or a religious leadership.

The Bible calls people to Jesus Christ. If you want to be saved, He will save you.
If you want to be redeemed, His blood will redeem you. If you profess your faith, you must profess it to Him. We ask you to do that in the way the Bible prescribes and the way Christians here have done it.
Scripture tells us: believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and that He shed His blood for you; repent of sins committed in the past; proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God before men and be baptized for the forgiveness of sin.
If you have done those things and become a child of God but have slipped away you can come back and ask His forgiveness. In either case the blood of Jesus Christ can make you new. We encourage you to come while we stand and sing.

Invitation song: ???

Reference sermon: David Schmidt


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