Summary: 2nd in a series on Romans 12; this message deals with the connection believers have to Christ and the Church, and the unique capacities each is given in order to serve the Church.
Trinity Baptist Church August 17, 2008
Christ, His Body and You
There was a Danish philosopher named Kierkegaard whose writings are weighty and tough to read. But that deep thinker one time told a simple parable that describes how easy it is to slide into complacency.
According to his parable, one Spring, a duck was flying north with a flock. In the Danish countryside that particular duck spotted a barnyard where tame ducks lived. The duck dropped down and he discovered these ducks had wonderful corn to eat. So he stayed …for an hour….then for the day….a week then went by and a month. And because the corn and the safe barnyard were so fine, our duck ended up staying the whole Summer at that farm. Then one crisp Fall day, some wild ducks flew overhead, quacking as they winged their way south. He looked up and heard them -- and he was stirred with a strange sense of joy and delight. And then, with all his might he began flapping his wings and rose into the air, planning to join his comrades for the trip south.
But all that corn had made the duck both soft and heavy -- and he couldn’t manage to fly any higher than the barn roof. So he dropped back to that barnyard and he said to himself, “Oh well, my life here is safe and the food is good!” After that in the Spring and in the Fall, that duck would hear wild ducks honking as they passed overhead -- and for a minute, his eyes would look and gleam -- he’d start flapping his wings almost without realizing it….but then a day came, when those others would pass overhead uttering their cry -- and the now tame duck would not pay the slightest attention.
Last week we began talking about how the American Church has been attacked by the diseases of apathy and complacency. It seems that like that barnyard duck -- American Christians have gotten tamed….and spoiled…in the process, we’ve often forgotten -- whose we are and therefore who and what we’re to be about. Complacency is a disease that sneaks up on us. But in Romans chapter 12 we find God‘s prescription for it. We began there last time in verses 1 and 2, and I’d like encourage you to turn there as go on today.
You heard Matt read verses 1 and 2 along with our verses for today. You remember in 1 and 2 that Paul began by urging the Roman Christians to respond to God’s mercy and grace. John’s gospel tells us that grace and Truth were revealed in Jesus Christ. God’s plan in Christ’s first coming was to take all the sin of mankind -- along with its penalty -- and lay it on His Son when He died on the cross. God then took Christ’s righteousness and apply it to everyone who would put their trust in Christ alone.
That’s the story of grace that Paul spent 11 chapters in Romans explaining. It’s the story you and I became part of when Christ’s death was applied to us and we were made alive in Christ.
God’s mercy and grace then become the great motivation for NT believers. We’re not under OT Law -- God’s full favor and covenant love became ours because of Christ. We don’t work for God’s favor, we respond in devotion because of God’s favor.
And in 1 and 2, Paul called for the commitment of all of life to God, because of His mercy. But there’s more. Commitment isn’t commitment at all when it has not legs -- when it doesn‘t result in life change. That’s the backdrop of verse 3 and following.
Paul writes, through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think. He begins by doing what he’s teaching. Just like his readers -- like us -- Paul experienced God’s grace. And like them, he has spiritual gifts and a calling -- he’s an apostle someone who taught and revealed Christ‘s message with authority. So he’s fulfilling his role -- he serves the body, teaching by writing. So, by the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you, don’t think more highly of yourself than you should, but think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each one a measure of faith.
This is for everyone who believes. He’s going to tell all of us about our connection to the church and our commitment therefore to serve in the church -- but he starts with a foundational approach: very simply he says, Think soberly and humbly about yourself.
Before you can begin to think about the amazing topic of spiritual gifts and realize we each have supernatural capacities as believers -- before you go there, you need to come here -- do some sober thinking about yourself. It’s easy to dive in and get involved, but there’s a foundation you need first. He gives us a key component to this sober thinking: don’t think more highly of yourself that you should. That’s because, when it comes to spiritual gifts -- when it comes to functioning in the church ministry and serving -- well, some gifts are very public, others get exercised in the background. And so, first -- don’t ever get pompous about what you are or who you are. Never get into thinking highly about your spiritual gifts -- especially as you consider their source and their purpose.