Summary: If you are a transformed and renewed Christian, how ought you to think about yourself? Soberly, neither too high nor too low; and as a servant of others.
I start this week with a brief reminder of the theme of these last few chapters of Romans – putting our faith into practice, applying God’s will in our lives. To do this properly requires us NOT to let the world squeeze us into its shape, but to have our minds shaped by God Himself.
In the section we are looking at tonight, vs 3- 8 of chapter 12, Paul basically talks about how a renewed and transformed person thinks about themselves – their character and their abilities.
The renewed mind thinks “soberly” about itself, neither overestimating our own importance, nor placing too low a view of our situation as redeemed people.
“sober” – it’s the opposite of “intoxicated”, or “stoned”. Anyone who has seen some blokes after they have had too much to drink, how they behave as if they are capable of performing great feats of macho prowess, when they really are acting like turkeys, has seen a great example of how “unsober” minds overestimate themselves.
- I’ve also seen people who are intoxicated by things other than alcohol or other substances. Just having a sense of power over other people can do it. For example in the workplace, when someone is given a promotion and they start behaving like they suddenly are the most irreplaceable person in the office and lording it over everyone else.
- I guess a lot of us have seen people with the opposite problem too, that of thinking too little of themselves. Intoxicated minds have hangovers and withdrawals that can lead us into really negative thinking, talking ourselves down and into a depression.
Paul says that we Christians are not to think of ourselves like that. We are not to be “intoxicated” with all the exaggerations or the negativity that comes with that, but to be “sober”.
The only way to be sure that we are thinking clearly, accurately, soberly about ourselves is to use what Paul calls here “the measure of faith”.
Does NOT refer to an amount of faith, as if the more faith we have the more highly we can think of ourselves.
DOES refer to “the faith”, or “the gospel” as the measuring rod that we should use. Illustration: building some piece of furniture from IKEA – they sometimes give you a measuring rod to use to space screws apart, or to measure the width of some part that you have to fit into the whole item. What if you decided that you were a better builder than the average customer and thus tried to make up your own measurements? It wouldn’t work, would it? No, the furniture will come together and work only if you use the measurements they have provided.
That’s what Paul is saying here – the measurements we have been given for how to think about ourselves are those contained in “the faith”. We can stand tall as people for whom Christ died – we should never be ashamed of Him or of being numbered as one of His people; God put enough value on you and me that He sacrificed His precious and only Son for us.
But, we should also kneel humbly, as sinners saved by grace and mercy; and as people who are one of many members of His body, a “team” if you like that works together under His direction, rather than as individuals going it alone and capable of doing great things without God in our lives.
Jesus took this attitude when he was confronted by Satan in the wilderness. He was tempted to focus on the power and the glory, to be intoxicated by the vision of all the kingdoms of the earth that he was shown. But he thought soberly, he judged himself and the life he had to lead, according to the gospel. He knew that those kingdoms Satan was showing him weren’t real, and so in order to live in accordance with the gospel, Jesus chose a life of service, that would lead him to the cross.
Paul said something similar to the Philippians in 2:5ff.
“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature God, did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant …… He humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross.”
So, next time you find yourself being full of yourself, remember the gospel – remember that Jesus humbled Himself and that you are saved to be a servant.
Likewise, next time you are really down on yourself, remember that the Son of God values you so much that He gave everything for you, and let him lift your head high.