Gifted to Make a Difference
Gifted to Make a Difference
Many of you have heard about the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. It was a reawakening of the church. The church of the middle ages lost the primacy of Scripture and then the gospel. Reformation teachers like Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrych Zwingli were huge figures in the church regaining a biblical theology and reforming the church. Martin Luther told how he had never even seen a Bible until he was twenty years old.
The church returned to the word of God and adjusted its theology, and arguably the biggest change was the clear articulation of the gospel. But another important change in the church was the way the lay people were viewed. In the medieval church it was viewed that the priests and clergy had a true calling from God, and everyone else was a second class Christian with no real part in what God was doing in the world. Luther began to teach the Biblical doctrine called the priesthood of all believers that saw everyone has heavenly work to do.
In Luther’s essay the "Babylonian Captivity" he wrote,
“I advise no one to enter any religious order or the priesthood, indeed I advise everyone against it- unless he is forearmed with this knowledge and understands that the works of monks and priests, however holy and arduous they may be, do not differ one whit in the sight of God from the works of the rustic laborer in the field or the woman going about her household tasks, but that all works are measured before God by faith alone.
Luther restored personal dignity and responsibility to every person in the church. Consider the huge change that happens when you think that you and your work have no place in God’s kingdom to suddenly discovering it does matter. You can do things that honor God and make a difference. Each person has purpose. It was a powerful message then. It is a powerful message today.
There has always been some kind of sacred and secular divide. A divide where people think they have no gifts or no significance, a place that their faith just doesn’t matter. God’s call runs right through those dividing lines.
You have gifts to use for him and you are to use those gifts. And the church and society need you using your gifts. One thing I want to see in our church is people recognizing how God has gifted and called them and then growing in their gifts.
Prop: We are looking at a passage in Romans that shows God gifts people and calls them to use those gifts for his purposes. Everyone matters and it matters what you do with your gifts. We need to push aside the world’s view that some people or some gifts or some places don’t matter. We need to be transformed by God’s ways and see how we are all gifted to make a difference in people’s lives.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. (Romans 12:1-8 ESV)
We all have gifts and are to use those gifts to build up the church body.
You Have Gifts
We all have gifts. This passage echoes 1 cor 12 that says to each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. We all have gifts. We have different gifts and different measures of gifts, but we all have a gift.
Here a few gifts are listed. Some may have a gift of teaching and another a gift of leading. There may be greater aptitudes of gifts (v6 “differ according to the grace given”). Some may be called to lead ten or twenty people. Another may be called to lead thousands. Sing.
We are called to use our gifts in proportion to our faith and ability. We don't all have the same function. We have different gifts, different aptitudes, and it creates a gift mix and this mix of gifts allows us to do many different things. This has a list of gifts. Corinthians 12 has another, Eph 4 another. No list is exhaustive. Even here Paul gives examples but there is nothing indicating this is a complete list. Sometimes people think “I have to find my gift, like it is just one thing.” Like losing your password. I can’t find it and I need that exact one.
Some people think too highly of their gifts. Some people think too little of theirs. This is where we all need to be renewed in our understanding. The gospel shows us how we are all important but no one is too important. No one supplants Jesus on his throne...
Have you ever done something you are not good at? Maybe you played a sport and you were not good at it, so you sat on the side board, disinterested and feeling down. That’s what happens when you don’t see a place for you. I want to make sure each person sees they are gifted, and I want you to see you are needed and have a place.
It doesn’t matter how old you are. You can be a blessing to others. Teenagers think about what is God calling you to do. How can you use your gifts to glorify God and do good to others. Life is not about playing video games. That’s a great hobby, but it is not what life is about. Find ways to use your gifts. Don’t give in to the worlds expectations. You may be a key part of bringing revival to the church.
Let's look at the gifts mentioned here. Seven gifts in two groups. Some of the gifts listed here are specific roles and some are general actions. Some are broader acts that could cut across many disciplines.
Several are word or communication based gifts. The gospel goes forth through our telling it to others. It makes sense that in the church gifts of speaking and sharing would be mentioned.
Speaking based gifts
Prophecy. Prophecy literally means to speak beforehand. To speak and it happens. Many shy away from this gift today because they think it means you are adding Scripture, like an Old Testament prophet. The cannon of Scripture is complete and no one will be adding to it. I dont think that is Paul’s expectation for this church.
Here Paul states prophecy is to be used “according to the faith” translated in proportion to their faith. “Kata analogia tns pistews” Analogy, proportion, or like analogies the right relationship to faith. Here the faith is not so much what we have in us (contained in us) but the content of the faith we believe in. Prophecy is to be done according to the standard of faith, which is contained in the word of God.
NT prophecy is not giving new authoritative instruction. Throughout the bible you have prophets who do not add to Scripture.
Murray. NT prophecy could include predictions of the future, proclaiming to the community information God had revealed for their edification. It could be a gift for applying Scripture in the lives of people. Some say it is preaching. Some say it is communicating God’s will to others (making Scripture known). Some say it is God putting things on the heart of his people to direct others to his word and promises.
Maybe a pastor has a prophetic gift. Man, it was like he was talking right to me. Maybe God puts acts, verses, encouraging words on your heart for other people that meets them in powerful ways.
Exhorting: parakalew. This is the word paraclete comes from. That is the word used to describe the Holy Spirit. It is coming alongside to help, to urge, encourage ( AC 27.33); or to relieve sorrow or distress comfort, cheer (up), encourage (2C 1.4)
“..., I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. (Jud 1:3 NIV)
“God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, (2Co 7:6 ESV)
Teaching: In I Corinthians 12:28, 29 and Ephesians 4:11 teaching is is listed and each time after prophecy. It seems prophecy has more of a revelatory nature to it. Teaching involves more the passing on or presenting information.
So three word/speaking based gifts are mentioned. Different ways God uses people. Maybe you identify more with one or the other. Hopefully that shows you ways you can be used to spread the message. Again, there are different gifts being used in different ways to reach people with the gospel and strengthen the church.
The other gifts:
Service. This word is used of waiting on tables. diakonian. It is the word behind the New Testament “deacon.” It is meeting the needs of others. Serving could encapsulate others. These categories could overlap too. Teaching is service. Encouraging is service.
Leading worship is a type of service. Preaching is a type of service. Greeting at the front door is a type of service. Leading a small group is a type of service. Doing admin in your office is a type of service.
This attitude in the church is so key. It is not about you. It is about serving others. In some ways this describes all work.
Giving. Giving is mentioned. Do you realize that is a gift? I had a friend who thought anybody of any significance in the church went into ministry, so he went into ministry. He was terrible at it and was told they needed to go a different direction. He got into real estate and found out he had a gift for making deals. He then shared with me how in one year he supported several full time missionaries, gave to his church, and helped several college students in a local ministry. He smiled and said, “it took me a while but I think I've done what I was most gifted to do.” Giving is huge, even when on a smaller level. It reflects our savior who gave his life for us.
Some say this gift of giving pertains to giving in the ministry of the church. I think it could include that and giving or tithing is an important discipline Christians are called to. Healthy churches need people doing this. But I think this is more than that. You can give to the church and not be generous in other ways. Consider how your approach to your time, your talent, your treasure reflects your faith in God. Consider tithing. Consider volunteering. Consider being all in when you are around others. Not so focused on yourself.
I want you to believe in what we are doing as a church. I want you to see the priority God puts on his church. I think one of the things that is going to get our replant going is people coming together and saying I want to give life to the church. I want to give sacrificially to the church, this church.
1 Thessalonians 2:8 So, being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us. (1Th 2:8 ESV)
Jesus Christ gave his life for us. We are to give our lives for others. This giving could be financial. Could be of time.
Leading: This word means to preside over something. Leading is a gift given by God. Whether it is leading your family, your homeschooling class, or an entire corporation it is a gift to be used according to our faith.
Showing mercy. of helping someone because of pity: take pity, be merciful.. Wives, you do this with your husbands every day. I know it's sad that they can't find their stuff. Have patience with those who struggle.
It could also pertain to benevolence shared with the poor, orphans, widows. It's serving those who are in need.
There are various gifts. You may be strong in some, non-existent in other. Find ways to grow and use them. You may have an opportunity that lines up with you perfectly. Teaching may be like that. Others you may bring them into a role you have. In the church you serve on the greeting team. Well, there is an opportunity for you to speak prophetically to people, to encourage people, to show mercy to others, to give of your time. Maybe you serve on the worship team. Same thing applies. Maybe you are called to pastor a church. Go show mercy, build up, teach, exhort, lead.
You have a gift and you need to steward it. But also remember...
You are Part of a Body
You need to think about your gift but also think about how it connects to the larger body. Individualism is so rampant today. people think about their gifts without any thought to it blessing others, or even how it may hurt others. V4 we are one body with many different members.
Part of the Body. Connection. Vital. Dependent. It is silly to think of a part of the body without its connection to the larger body. What good is an arm if it is not connected to the body. Here you see the vital connection that is the church. Many people don’t have a conviction about being connected to a particular church body. Paul uses imagery of a body to show how vital, interconnected we are to be. It shows that a church needs and depends on its member and the members need and depend the body. We are not isolated people on islands of our own. In the church we come together and work toward something that is greater than what we can accomplish on our own. Many people never grow in gifts (or life) because they are not committed to the body. Body’s don’t grow because there is not a commitment to sacrifice.
God gives us gifts to help the larger body. This is certainly the case in the church. You may have a gift to teach, but what is the point if you are not connected to the rest of the body.? How is your gift helping the body?
We want to be a church with a family feel. People feel welcome and valued. But we also have to have a corporate connection in which we do things not just because so and so likes it, but because we believe it is best for the whole. You may have a gift for singing but if your idea is to sing to outshine everyone else that is not helpful. You may have an idea how to teach your Sunday school class but we have to think about the people coming in the next few weeks after you. We have to make sure using our gifts keeps us in step with the rest of the body. It not just about you, or me. As a leader, I want to do what is best for the body. We all need that mentality.
The body is also a place to discover your gifts. This is where I have often encouraged people if you don’t know your gifts then just get involved in the body. Serve other people. You will grow. I have seen people do that and very quickly it becomes clear they have a gift for leadership, or teaching, or serving. Maybe initially they were serving somewhere just because there was a need and soon they figured out where they were really gifted.
I see so many people stagnate because they are more worried about themselves and their position rather than serving others. God is calling you to do something for him. Jump into the life of the church. I have seen so many people confused on what God is calling them to do. My advice to them is get involved in a church, serve where you see a need you can fill.
Christians out of the church are like a fish out of water. They are going to flop and flounder. The church is the body of Christ, it nourishes and strengthens its members, helps each other grow.
Gifted, called to serve, and fit your gifts in with the rest of the people in the church. Sounds like an opportunity for character development. Absolutely. That is what the church is here to do. We have to look at the importance of the attitudes we have in using our gifts. Look at the adverbs describing how we go about our gifts.
-In faith, humility, generously, cheerfulness, zealously.
-Giving with generosity, leading with zeal, acts of mercy with cheerfulness (v8),
Outward actions reveal our inner faith. It reveals what we believe in and trust in. If you believe in a gospel of good news you will want to tell others about it. You are only going to give sacrificially when you believe in something. And the same is true about the attitude we use our gifts.
Our gifts give expression to our unseen faith. Our gifts, our work, our service makes visible what is not seen.
You can have significant gifts but your attitude might render them useless. We see it all the time. A guy has incredible athletic ability, but his attitude makes him useless. You have a gift, are you using it to serve others. You have a gift, are you proud about it. You have a gift but do you think about how you are affecting the rest of the body. You have a gift of leading but are you eagerly using it. A gift of giving but are you generous.
Humility. Also, often we serve in ways that seem insignificant. Serving another person is never insignificant, but pride will keep you from doing anything. You think I'm not leading a small group, but I'll teach for the whole church. I'll sing on worship team but only if they recognize I need to be featured every Sunday. Pride will destroy you. When pride shows up the Spirit of God leaves. Put God first. Others second. And yourself below that.
These gifts connect to how we view life. Our gifts reflect what is going on inside. Don’t want to be a part of a team on Sundays. It reflects priorities. Not willing to sacrifice. Or you want to be on a team but your pride keeps killing your relationships with others.
This helps us see where we need to be transformed. We need to be renewed in our thinking. And in the church you are joining with others who are in that process. No one is perfect, but we are eager.
Bart: leadership, business. Excitement and passion.
What gifts from this passage do you have or most want to grow in? What other gifts do you have?
What can you do to use and grow in your gifts?
How does being connected to a larger body shape your view of gifts and how they impact others?