WHAT AM I? (part three)
INTRODUCTION: In part one of ‘what am I’ in Christ we saw that since we have been born again we are now a child of God. I have been given God’s Spirit and I have an inheritance waiting for me in heaven. Last week I talked about how we are a temple of God and we are a slave of God. Since the Holy Spirit has come to live in us we have a responsibility to act in accordance with our new nature. And we realized that being a slave of God wasn’t something appalling; it was appealing. Today, we will see that as a Christian I am part of the body of Christ. Let’s see what that involves.
1) One body, many parts. 1st Cor. 12:12-27. We are different but all make up one body. This is not just true in a worldwide sense but in a local sense too; perhaps even more so. Each church is the body of Christ and each member a part of it. And we all need each other.
You have two groups represented here: those who think their part is insignificant and those who think their part is so wonderful it doesn’t need the others. The Minister shouldn’t be proud, thinking he is better than any other part of the body. And the custodian shouldn’t think the part he plays doesn’t matter.
I might think my role as a Minister is most important but what if there was no one here to hear me preach? Why are there people here? A big reason is because the body has reached out to others and invited them to church. I can do that too but not by myself. All parts need to function together and each part is important in the overall function of the church.
All you need to do to realize that is take one part away and see how that affects the whole unit. If one person became discouraged, thinking their role was dispensable and started shirking their responsibility what would happen? People would start to wonder why this or that isn’t getting done. And somebody else would have to fill that role. If my left arm isn’t functioning what does that mean for my right arm? It has to work twice as hard. So it wouldn’t take long to realize that the body suffers when one part isn’t doing his work.
Before I get up to preach many things need to happen to prepare the people to hear the sermon. First they need to get here. This is where the ride ministry is important. Some people might not be able to get here if they don’t have a ride. Then they get here and it helps when the sidewalk is shoveled. Or those who drive here see the parking lot has been taken care of. They walk in without seeing garbage on the church grounds. They come in and are met by the Greeter, welcoming them with an affectionate smile.
They might go to the coffee area and have a pleasant encounter by the person running that ministry and with those who are fellowshipping there. They need to go to the bathroom and are pleased to find it clean. They come into the sanctuary and are greeted by the usher and perhaps helped by him in some way. They have others coming up to them and greeting them and making them feel welcome and at ease here. They have a sense of security for their vehicle knowing the parking lot is being watched.
Then the service starts and the worship leader and team lead the congregation in song. This is greatly helped by the sound ministry and technical staff having gotten all the electrical equipment up and running. They hear encouraging messages by the meditation speaker and then by the Lord’s Supper speaker. If they have kids they are helped with the nursery worker, junior church teacher and Sunday school teacher.
And I’m sure I’ve left someone out so please don’t get offended; I’m just taking the time to illustrate a point. All of these things I mentioned and more need to happen before I get up to preach. And if they don’t happen, if people aren’t working together, this can greatly affect a person’s attitude and openness by the time I get up to preach a message. Can you see the importance of everyone doing their part?
We’ve all been given different gifts and functions in the body and they are all important. “A concert violinist had a brother who was a bricklayer. One day a woman began talking to the bricklayer about how wonderful it was for him to be in the same family as the noted musician. But then, not wanting to insult the bricklayer, she added, "Of course, we don't all have the same talents, and even in the same family some just seem to have more ability than others." The bricklayer replied, "You're telling me! That violinist brother of mine doesn't know a thing about laying bricks. And if he wasn't able to make some money playing that fiddle of his, he couldn't hire a guy with know-how like mine to build his house. If he had to build a house himself, he'd be ruined." Some of us are violinists; some are bricklayers. Each of us is equally important in the whole scheme of things. We all need each other and we need to work together and do our part in the body of Christ.
2) We need to use our gifts. Rom. 12:3-8. In 1st Cor. 12:25 Paul highlighted the fact that we are to recognize everyone’s part in the body so that there would be no division in the body but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. We see here in vs. 3 one thing that can cause there to be a division in the body-pride. When I think of myself in a high and lofty way I go around bragging about my abilities. I may go around downplaying yours. This will cause division and strife.
Paul said in vs. 6 that the gifts we have are in accordance with God’s grace. We aren’t responsible for our talents and abilities. Yes, we may have worked hard but the ability to do whatever it is we’re gifted in came from God and him alone. Not even those who taught us are responsible because God gave them the ability to do and teach. So, thinking of myself more highly than I ought to will lead to divisions in the body.
And we see in vs. 5 one thing that will help to keep us unified-recognizing that we belong to each other. As we saw in 1st Cor. 12:26, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” This is all for one and one for all mentality. This is unified thinking.
There’s joy in having a sense of belonging. Loneliness can be devastating. But when we know we belong and when we know we are useful, these are two huge factors in our spiritual well-being. That’s what knowing we’re a part of the body of Christ provides-a sense of belonging and a sense of usefulness.
It’s interesting how Paul uses the phrase, “let him”. “If someone has a gift, let him use it.” Why would someone not use their gift? It could be because I’m lazy and don’t want to use it. It could be because I’m selfish and perhaps have a “what’s in it for me” attitude. Paul wants us to use the gift that God has given us. When we know what our gift is we are then responsible to use that gift. In the parable of the talents, the one who buried their talent did not receive a nice reaction from the master. God will not be happy with us if we bury our talents.
Sometimes, the reason we’re not using our gifts is not laziness or selfishness, but fear. Paul told Timothy not to neglect his gift. Timothy was young and had an issue with timidity. 2nd Tim. 1:5-7, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your Grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.” To use the gift that God gave him, as a young minister Timothy would be drawn out of his comfort zone. Chances are, in some way, the gift that God gives us will draw us out of our comfort zone.
“When Leonardo Da Vinci was still a pupil, his elderly, well-known teacher asked him to finish a painting he had begun. Young Da Vinci stood in such awe of his master's skill that at first he respectfully declined. But his teacher would accept no excuse. He simply said, "Do your best." Trembling, Da Vinci took his brush and began. With each stroke, his hand grew steadier as the genius within him awoke. Soon he was so caught up in his work that he forgot his timidity.”
We fan into flame our gift by using it. When we start using our gift it might look like a small fire. But by fanning it, by giving it more air, by throwing more wood on it, it will grow bigger and stronger. The bigger the flame, the greater the impact. It warms more people; its light can be seen from farther distances. We need to fan our gift into flame.
All for the glory of God. 1st Pet. 4:10-11, “Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
We can get caught up in making our service all about us. Giving ourselves credit for our accomplishments, getting all upset and wanting to quit when we’re not acknowledged and shown appreciation, things like that. But, if we serve in the right spirit we will know it’s all for the glory of God. All of what we do should be for the edification of the saints, reaching the lost and so that God would be praised.
3) We need to grow. One of the reasons it’s important for us to use our gifts and work together is because this is how we grow as a church body. Eph. 4:16, “From him [Jesus] the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” If we are going to grow bigger and stronger it can only happen when everyone understands their role in the church and is diligent in fulfilling the function that God has called them to.
One of the things that will help people fulfill their role is when the rest of us are willing to acknowledge their sacrifice. We need to appreciate each other’s work. We need to commend and thank people who contribute. People need encouragement. Not that I shouldn’t serve unless I’m recognized but I’m sure one of the reasons the people in the Corinthian church thought they were dispensable was that their work wasn’t being acknowledged.
Sometimes people’s work is easy to miss because their ministry might not be a visible one. Like the people who do the cleaning. Typically it’s done when no one is around to see it. Therefore, it can easily become an unnoticed and unrecognized function of the body. The Minister is probably the most visible role and one that would get the most attention.
I think Paul’s point is for the people to focus on those whose work could easily go unnoticed. He wanted everyone to understand that everyone’s role should be appreciated; everyone should be recognized for their service. So that there would be no division in the body. So that the body could grow as it was intended to. The church is the greatest volunteer organization there is. People here serve out of their desire to please the Lord and their desire to edify the saints and reach the lost. Other volunteer organizations are commendable; many work toward saving lives. But the church is different –we are working to save souls.