Last week, the church secretary called to ask what my sermon title was. I said, "Whatever." To which she replied, "Well, when you come up with one, let me know." "No," I said, "that is my title." Now you know why she quit! One can only handle so much of that. I believe that you will soon understand why I chose the title of today's sermon.
A few years ago a submarine, moored in the San Francisco naval shipyard, suddenly sank to the bottom. A U.S. House armed- services committee has since reported that "inexcusable carelessness" led to the sudden sinking of the submarine.
Indicative of the carelessness was the fact that two different construction crews were working at cross-purposes in attempting to trim the submarine for some tests.
While one crew was pumping water into the stern, another crew was pumping water into the ballast tanks in the bow, trying to trim, or level, the submarine. While the bow crew was off to lunch, the stern crew let water out of the stern tanks, and the bow- heavy submarine sank alongside the fitting-out pier.
The navy informed Congress that it would cost as much as twenty five million dollars to raise and repair the submarine, originally estimated to cost fifty million dollars!
They had one purpose, but no coordination! I watched a person trying to learn coordination yesterday in our church parking lot. Another benefit of working in the church, other than hearing the special music being practiced is that our parking lot is often used to train people how to drive. I've seen some of our own young people out there. This person I did not recognize, but their driving instructor, I believe was nervous by the amount of smoke coming out of his window as he was lighting one right after another. She was learning how to park in the empty spots. My truck was the only one out there and I had trouble not watching her because I was afraid she was going to hit that. She had real trouble with coordination it seems! The Apostle Paul has much to say on the value of coordination.
Turn with me to Romans 12:1. Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.
Many scholars believe that someone other than Paul must have written chapters 12-15. To some, it appears that the first 11 chapters of Romans shows the powerlessness of the Law and the last chapters contradict the first. It is important to note that the first word of chapter 12 is "Therefore." Remember, when one comes across this word in the Scriptures he must ask, "What is the therefore there for?" "Therefore" implies a conclusion to something that has gone before. This "therefore" ties the advice about Christian living in the last part of the book with what has gone before. This is the conclusion of the matter. But Paul's "therefore" does more than tie these two parts of Romans together. It also transforms the admonitions that follow. Without understanding Paul's "therefore," we misunderstand all that follows.
As the saying goes, advice is cheap (and often worth the price). Admonitions all by themselves are simply law, and Paul has already waxed eloquent about the powerlessness of law. But these admonitions Paul gives are more than law, and it is the "therefore" that makes the difference. In this whole section, Paul is doing much more than merely saying, "Do this." Rather, he is saying, "Therefore, in the light of God's mercy and grace, here is the appropriate way to respond." He is trying to show us the life that follows from a true understanding of God's grace "for all" is a holistic response of trust for God and love for others. That's what Paul calls a "living sacrifice." It is not something that we do, but something that we are.
Romans 12:1-3. Therefore I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--His good, pleasing and perfect will.
For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.
Paul gets this section started with a play on words. He uses three words from the same root: phroneo, which means: to think. He uses huperphroneo which means: to think too highly of oneself or to be haughty. And he uses sophroneo: to think sensibly. He urges the Romans to think sensibly, not haughtily. In other words, they are to have an accurate assessment of themselves. We in this day often call this: self-awareness. Yet many times when we speak of self- awareness, it is in the context of an individualistic, even self- centered effort to understand ourselves. For Paul, the goal of self-awareness is service. We need to understand ourselves and our gifts so we will know how to serve.
I encourage baptismal students to discover their spiritual gifts. These gifts are not merely natural endowments, but are part of the measure of faith that God gives. And we need to discover these gifts and to use them for His service. To know what He has given to us.
Look again at Romans 12:3-5. For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 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.
Paul begins showing his readers the shape of a living sacrifice by pointing them to their life as a part of the body of Christ. Although in our individualistic culture some people speak of living a Christian life apart from the church, such a conception was totally foreign to Paul. He would not have known what you were talking about. To respond to God in faith was to become part of Christ's body and to join together with other believers.
I have had requests to baptize people who do not wish to join a certain church. I refuse to do so because if they are apart from the body of Christ, they will spiritually die. I have watched it happen as people decide that the church is not for them, for one reason or another, and they separate themselves from it, thinking that they will lead the Christian life by themselves. I have seen one of two things: They eventually either have nothing to do with spiritual matters or they become fanatical because no body is there to balance their beliefs.
I have shaken hands with some of you and realized that some of you have lost a finger. Maybe the table saw got a little too close. The finger is gone. How is your finger doing that is gone, by the way. Is it doing well? What happened to your lost finger? How is it doing? That's what I thought. I have heard that if a lost digit is reattached soon enough that healing is possible. One should not wait too long! We must not be apart from the body but a part of the body!
Romans 12:4,5. 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 the grace given us.
One's gifts are not one's own! They belong to the body of Christ, His church, and should be used in coordination with all of the other gifts given to different parts of the body. A body that does not work together is soon in trouble. Have you noticed that on your own body? If the parts don't work together you have trouble. If my taste buds are allowed to do as they please, I would be in serious trouble. My taste buds would say, "Hey, look at that Krispy Kreme Doughnut shop! And, look! The sign says in big red neon letters that a fresh batch has just come steaming out of the oven. The sugar is dripping off the sides and onto the pan. Pull over, quick!" But, fortunately, my fat cells yell back, although sometimes not loudly enough, "We are big enough, thank you! Don't stop!" Our gifts are to be used in coordination and in cooperation with everyone else's gifts. Being a part of the body means that things may not always go as we would wish. But I'm glad that my taste buds do not always have their way or else I would become unbalanced so to speak.
Look again at Romans 12:6-8. We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; (by the way, the word for servant is "deaconos". Where do we get the word "deacon" from? If your gift is to serve, be a deacon or deaconess.) if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
Turn with me to I Corinthians 12:4-16. We're moving from Romans 12 to 1 Corinthians 12. There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To on there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though al its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-- whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body. And if the ear should say, "because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be a part of the body.
Paul now makes a very effective parallel with the church and the parts of the body. This comparison was not original with Paul. Many ancient writers had made a similar point. For example, Socrates (400 years earlier) had pointed out how absurd it would be if feet and hands should work against one another when God made them to cooperate. Seneca, a godly man who was the philosophic director in the court of the Emperor Nero and a contemporary of Paul, also alludes to this same line of thought. So the people of Paul's day would have understood what he meant by such a statement.
Some may feel that their particular gift to the body is so insignificant that it would not be missed in unused or not even present. I spoke with a man who had lost his small toe. He told me that he had never given much thought to his little toe. He had bathed it and clipped it's nail when necessary. Other than that, he did not notice it unless he stubbed it on a chair leg. But after he lost it, he realized its importance. Now, when he walks, he has a hard time walking straight! He learned that the small toe helped to guide the whole body! If he doesn't pay attention, he has a tendency to go in circles! You may be unknowingly guiding this church on the right path by the use of your "small" gift!
The Jessup Maryland headlines one time read, "PENNIES STOP TRAFFIC." One penny alone may have gone unnoticed until a hitchhiker came along. But this was not one penny! This was 4.3 million pennies in canvas sacks from a turned over armored truck!
Testimonies, Vol. 9, states; "If Christians were to act in unity, moving forward as one, under the direction of one Power, for the accomplishment of one purpose, they would move the world." One penny couldn't stop traffic, but 4.3 million of them could. One Christian may feel like they could not do much, but when we work together and cooperate in the body of Christ we can move the world.
Even one person can move the world if he or she does whatever God asks. Moses was a nobody! But he did whatever he was asked to do and led a nation out of bondage. He used whatever talents God gave to him. Joshua did whatever he was asked to do. He conquered Canaan. Jesus was seen as a nobody from Nazareth. But He did whatever His Heavenly Father asked of Him. People are still following Him out of bondage and conquering this world in His name!
Let's continue reading 1 Corinthians 12:17-27. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smelling be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.
Down to verse 25: so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.
Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.
A man had the job of guarding an institution for patients with severe mental illness. A friend asked him if he wasn't afraid that the 100 patients would get their heads together and attack him. He responded, "These patients are here because of their inability to get their heads together and cooperate." A church that does not work together for a common goal has about as much effect on the world as those patients. And Jesus knew this. That's why in John 17, he prayed this prayer. It's a beautiful prayer for His disciples to the heavenly Father.
John 17:11, 20-23. "... Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name--the name you gave me--so that they may be one as we are one." Now skip over to verse 20. "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."
Testimonies Vol. 9 states: "Unity and love will accomplish wonderful things for the believers. Will not our churches arouse and give the last warning message to the world?"
What is the purpose of unity? As Jesus prayed: "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent Me!" Unity is for the spreading of the Gospel as Jesus commanded us to all the world! That is to be our purpose as a church!
Our Nominating Committee will soon begin it's work in selecting the officers for our church. They will be trying to discern the many gifts that God has given to this body and placing the members where they will be of greatest service. I implore you to be thinking and praying about the gifts that you have been given. Everyone will have a job to do. It may not be listed upon a list of church officers but it will be just as important. What are leaders without followers? What are leaders if they do not delegate their responsibilities to their gifted followers?
If you are called to specific service, don't just say, "Whatever." Say, "WHATEVER!" Meaning, I'll do whatever God asks me to do, in whatever way I can, using whatever gifts He has give to me! In this way we will, as the body of Christ, do in an orderly way, whatever He asks us to do.
At a church board meeting years ago, one of my elders was upset about something on the agenda. The members wanted to watch General Conference via satellite. He didn't feel good about a television set being in the sanctuary. The discussion was had and he was a very respected man. When the vote "Should we put the television in the sanctuary to watch General Conference?" Everybody voted "yes" except this man, who voted "no." He could have acted like I would have expected some people to act. He stood up, and I was afraid of this, He didn't say that he would have nothing to do with it. He stood up and he said, "I have a friend that is a Curtis-Mathis dealer. He'll give us a good deal." And he went an purchased the television. And I looked at that man and I said to myself, "He knows what it means to be a part of the body." Even when things didn't go just right he was still part of the body. He did not divorce himself from it. A man that truly had Jesus living His life within him.
Hymn of Praise: #165, Look, You Saints! the Sight is Glorious Scripture: 1 Corinthians 12:12,13 Hymn of Response: #316, Live Out Thy Life Within Me "Whatever!.wpd" Sources: John C. Brunt: Romans W. Larry Richards: I Corinthians E.G. White: Testimonies Vol. 9
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last updated 9/07/2000 by Bob Beckett.