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Summary: This is the gift that greases the gears of the church. Without this gift a congregation becomes lifeless and empty. What is this gift, and why is it so important to God's church family.

OPEN: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnVuqfXohxc

I’ve been waiting months to use that clip.

It’s clever.

It’s cute.

And whether you realize it or not – it is deeply theological.

Think about it… what did it show?

It showed lot of animals that don’t ordinarily get along… getting along.

These are animals that don’t ordinarily spend much time together.

• Cats and Dogs

• Lions and Bears

• Birds and Cats

• And Deer and Dogs

o And, of course, there’s that Orangutan at the end…

And they’re all getting along.

It reflects the truth stated here in Romans 12

“… in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” Romans 12:5

Later in Romans (15:12) Paul quotes a verse from Isaiah 11 that describes the present day church. That verse says: “And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall stand for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious.” Isaiah 11:10

Right before that verse in Isaiah 11 are these words:

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

and a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together:

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice’ den.”

Isaiah 11:6-8

According to Romans 15:12… those words describe the church.

Really?

Oh yeah.

What God is describing in Isaiah are the personality types of people who come to Christ.

Have you ever heard of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”?

How about someone being as “gentle as a lamb”?

Or like a “snake in the grass”?

This section of verses in Isaiah is describing people as if they were animals.

Animals who were NOT ACTING like you’d expect.

If the animals in Isaiah 11 ALL acted the way you’d think they’d act - the lambs and the calves and the fatlings and the little children in the text… they’d all be some other animal’s lunch.

But that’s not happening.

Something has changed them.

And that’s what has happened in true churches.

You’ve got all kinds of worldly people coming in and becoming Christians.

People who (before coming to Christ) were wolves and snakes and devourers and now they’re sitting in pews with the innocent and gentle folks of this world.

Ordinarily– if you were to put those kinds of people together for any length of time the only folks left standing are the predators.

THEN how was that God could get so many different and difficult kinds of people into one place where they could actually get along?

1. Well, partly this could happen because of the transformative power of the blood of Christ. I watched one day as an ex-CIA assassin turned his life over to Christ and became a changed man. I watched one day as a child molester came forward and repented of his sin… and something in his eyes changed. I’ve seen ex-homosexuals and adulterers and fornicators all come to Christ and become changed individuals… all because of the power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

2. But there’s something beyond the saving blood of Christ that also adds to change that takes place in God’s people. Something that is embodied in a simple gift listed here in Romans 12: the gift of encouragement.

Paul writes: “If a man’s gift … is encouraging, let him encourage.” Romans 12:6 & 8 NIV

Another version says “If exhorting, let him exhort” HCSB version

Encouraging?

Exhorting?

Those two words don’t sound like they describe the same thing.

Well, that prompted me to take a look at the Greek word here.

The Greek word is “para-kaleo”.

“kaleo” means “to call

“para” means “alongside”

Thus parakaleo means: “to call alongside.”

One of the most famous uses of a word like this is in John 16:7 where Jesus says:

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter (also Counselor or Helper in other translations) will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.”

Who exactly is Jesus referring to here? (Holy Spirit)

Part of the Spirit’s job is to “come alongside us” and comfort us.

Counsel us.

Help us.

Comfort/Counsel/Help (REPEAT several times)

Now if that’s the Spirit’s job, what do you think the mortal who has that kind of gift is supposed to do? That’s right, they’re supposed to come along side us and comfort us, counsel us, help us.

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