Monday, November 21, 2011

Gifted Grace: According to Romans 12

Let's face it. Deep down most of us really desire to know that we have a purpose for being here. Making a difference. And on top of that, how many of us crave to know what we're really good at? Actually lean towards those opportunities to do what we know we do best?

The Challenge

Romans 12:1-2 begins with a huge challenge to act like Christ by:

1.  Recognizing that everything we do for Christ is done by the mercies of God.

2.  Presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice requires more than the cursory prayer, "God use me for your glory." This is walking out the talk. 

3. Watering down our faith in Christ is not an option. Stepping back into worldly thoughts, attitudes, and behavior is to weaken Christ's cause. Be a transformer not a conformer.

4. Renewing the spiritual mind is ongoing and  fundamental to fulfilling our purpose in Christ.

The Toolbox
Today, let's explore verses 3-8. Inside these verses are the means for making the above challenge a reality. Mind you, this blog is not intentional or exhaustive on the subject of spiritual gifts. It is a simple, straightforward reminder of what is available to us through God's spirit.

Verse 3 - 5:
Paul reminds us of his calling as an apostle ("...through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all nations." - Romans 1:5) and that God has bestowed on him the grace to say these necessary things.

The term "not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned" is a complicated one, but here's my paraphrase for what it's worth:  

God has given to each of us grace, mercy, and gifts to fulfill His purpose in our lives. Look on those things with gratitude and with a well-balanced evaluation of what is given to us. We all have strengths and weaknesses. But remember this - a false humility is as prideful as a grandiose view of ourselves. Be reasonable, thankful, and faithful to what God has given us.

1. Prophecy - speaking God's truth; being bold, being radical, being loving, letting God be God in our lives as He uses our mouths, our words, our ordained opportunities to exhort and explicate the teachings in the Word of God as clearly and accurately as possible.

Prophecy, which is meant to exhort, encourage, and comfort (see I Cor 14:3), must do so in a right relationship to the revealed truth of God.  (Pfeiffer, C. F., & Harrison, E. F. (1962). The Wycliffe Bible commentary : New Testament (Ro 12:6). Chicago: Moody Press.)

2. Service - simply put, this is the administration and fulfillment of tasks that may seem temporal in nature, but enhance the eternal value of a particular ministry. If you are an "Acts of Service" kind of person, your value is measureless. It's a powerful, blessed calling!

3. Teaching - to provide instruction in a formal or informal setting. I believe that this gift includes the ministry of discipleship and mentoring - two of the most powerful ministries today. In a world screaming discontentment, unbiblical principles being displayed on all sides; powerful spiritual teaching is crucial. If it is your gift, are you using it? There is someone somewhere needing you TODAY.

4. Exhortation - I believe that this gift is probably misused more than any other - except maybe Prophecy. So many feel that they need to tell someone what they are doing wrong. Criticizing and damaging one's spirit is certainly not what the spirit of exhortation is! Discernment must go hand-in-hand with this gift along with being spirit led in our words and timing. A Christian brother or sister may be turned back to a right relationship with God when this gift is done correctly. Words matter.

5. Giving - This gift is misunderstood in its essence as always meaning money, money, money! But, all of our earthly possessions, the things that God has blessed us with are to be shared with others as the opportunity arises. Giving someone a ride (whose car is in the shop), sharing from your garden, allowing someone to borrow something (a friend recently did that for me and that simple act blessed me beyond measure!). It may be giving money. It may not. What's in your hand? Who is in need? God will show you if you ask Him.

6. Leadership - Those with the gift to direct others walk a fine line of being misunderstood or criticized, but it is a needful, important purpose in the body of Christ. Leading with divine purpose and God's power and in His love is a strong formula. Relentless. Determined. Never turning back.

The idea of making haste, being eager, giving diligence, and putting forth effort are in the word. The word speaks of intense effort and determination.   
Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader (Ro 12:6). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 

7. Mercy - A heart that is in tune with hurt, suffering, and the raw need of others. Ministering to those who need compassion, grace, sympathy, tenderheartedness takes something out of you. It is difficult to enter into the suffering of another and not be touched. But this passage says to do it always with a cheerful heart! Our word hilarity comes from the Greek form of this word. Care and longsuffering for another with joyful abandonment. Does someone need that from you today? 

Next blog will deal with the rubber that meets the road.
Romans 12:9-21 is not for sissies. But it is for Christians who want to live out God's purpose in our lives.