Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Romans 12:1-8 Gift Centered Service

After devoting eleven chapters to God's mercy, Paul is now going to apply it to Christian living. Interestingly, he starts with the proper use of spiritual gifts. Usually Romans 12:1-2 is not linked to spiritual gifts, but this implies that Paul has no theme at the crucial point of this letter. As I see it, the theme is that gift centered service must be done in the fruit of the Spirit. Since we are focused on spiritual gifts, I will only comment on the first eight verses and leave the fruit of the Spirit for another time.

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.
These words are linked by the Bible: offering, sacrifice, obedience, worship. When we give something to God or do something for God, it shows that we believe He deserves such things. Worship applies to every area of life, but we often exempt Paul's prime consideration: Spiritual Gifts. God has given each Christian a spiritual gift. He wants us to use it. To honor God, we must discover, develop and use our gifts. Using our gifts is an act of worship. Thus ignoring our gifts is dishonoring to God; an act of rebellion.
12:2 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.
Spiritual gifts are the power of the Holy Spirit, given to break us free from the pattern of this world. The world does not have our power to serve, help, give, teach, lead, govern, etc. Obedience to God yields the fruit of the Spirit. When we develop and use our God given spiritual power, God transforms our mind. It becomes easier and easier to know how use our gift in accordance with God's will. If we remain humble and obedient, this transformation will extend beyond using our gifts, into every area of life.

12:3 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.

One of the great dangers of success is pride. When we use the power inherent in our gifts, we will succeed more than the world can. The pattern of this world is to glorify self. If our minds are not transformed, we will become proud of our spiritual gifts and the success they bring us. We must always keep in mind that our powers are not earned, they are gifts from God. Without Him, we can do nothing.

12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
All the Christians in the world, and in fact throughout the ages are members of one body. We all have different purposes, but we are united in Christ. We must take direction from the head (Christ) and go about our specific functions. It can be difficult at times to adjust to the other members when our own purpose is so pressing, but we truly need each other. In humility we must remember that only God can behold the whole body working at once.

12:6 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. 12:7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 12:8 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.
Not only do we have a diversity of gifts, but also those with the same gift have differing amounts of power and areas of service. One gift may be for teaching children only. Such a gift would not help when teaching adults. Another teaching gift could be for one-on-one situations, and still another for mass audiences. Whatever the gift: find, develop, and use it as God directs. Concluding this selection is a partial list of gifts, note how they have been turned into verbs of action: prophesy, serve, teach, encourage, give, govern, show mercy. In view of God's mercy, let us worship God by using our gifts to serve others. In doing so, He will transform us into his image.


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