READING: Romans 12:3-18
So – you’ve been waiting for the winner of the competition for shortest sermon of the year.
Me too. The thing is I get excited about the treasures we find in Scripture. Psalm 19 makes it clear – this is gold. Look at the number of words describing how rich God’s word to us is: Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psa 19:8 The precepts of the LORD are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the LORD are radiant, giving light to the eyes. Psa 19:9 The fear of the LORD is pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the LORD are sure and altogether righteous. Psa 19:10 They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the comb.
So what do we glean today from Romans 12? What new treasures. Sweetness. Richness.
Quite a lot really.
Those who offer themselves as living sacrifices (see last week’s message) – in service or 24/7 worship – giving glory to – God, acknowledging his worth – that He is worthy of all recognition and praise, have all kinds of options to make this practical.
In relation to God’s infinite greatness in rescuing us and receiving the credit in or praise and thanksgiving, we must however look out that we don’t make ourselves as important as God. That after all is the Adam and Eve trap – wanting to be like God. Or making ourselves equal to God (compare Jesus in Phil 2 – Php 2:5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Php 2:6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, Php 2:7 but made himself nothing ).
So – verse 3 could keep us busy today: Rom 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.
You could lay this alongside Philippians 2 again:
Php 2:3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Php 2:4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others
While we are living sacrifices worshipping God every day at work and play, we are to put ourselves into perspective in the context of the body of Christ – the church.
Rom 12:4 Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, Rom 12:5 so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.
Paul then proceeds to talk about giftedness. You see this humility is not self-loathing or hiding one’s light under a bushel or a bowl because the tall poppy syndrome makes you think your light is useless.
We have gifts, he says. Use them.
That’s why churches put people to use. Not because we are obsessed with our programs. People then become commodities.
No, rather because we are obsessed with the generous grace of God. “Grace” means “gift”.
Charismata – from which we get the word “charismatic” is the word for “gifts” in the plural.
Ephesians 4 lists people gifts. Pastor, teacher, evangelist, apostle and prophet. 1 Corinthians 12 lists “spirituals” including tongues, prophecy, healing etc.
Romans 12 lists people’s gifting. Simply put – if a person has gift A, then let him use it in proportion to his faith. In other words as he or she trusts God to make that gift fruitful.
The list is there:
Rom 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.
Rom 12:7 If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach;
Rom 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.
What do you notice about these gifts?
They are all for the benefit of others.
Prophecy – in 1 Corinthians 14 terms needs three things to be genuine. (Everyone who prophesies speaks to men for their strengthening, encouragement and comfort. 1 Cor 14:3)
Serving – serves others. (versus self-serving)
Teaching is about the learners learning. (Tired teachers miss this! “School is so nice when the kids are on holiday!”)
Encouragement obviously helps the recipients to keep going! They need to be helped not to give up!
Contributing to the needs of others is obviously for others.
Leadership – is meant to help people follow! It’s for the group, not the leader. (As the saying goes – if you’re out front leading and no one is following you’re – you’re really just out for a walk.)
And mercy – well that too is to be shown cheerfully. Interesting idea – you can’ really show mercy with a gloomy grumpy attitude. Would seem a bit strange if we said: “Ah well I suppose I’d better be merciful. Sigh. You don’t deserve it and i don’t feel like it, but there it is””
In a word – this is not all about you and me! And your and my needs. It’s about the needs of others.
Strangely obvious really.
But for some reason people don’t pick up on it.
They are locked into the thinking of the age – their minds are clearly not transformed (Romans 12:2) – because it’s all about them. Consumer Christianity abounds.
So much time wasted because people are “not having their needs met”.
Now don’t get me wrong. We should be helping people grow in faith. But they should be able to feed themselves too – like children learn to feed themselves physically.
Serving, teaching and encouraging should be working for people’s good.
But note that this is a letter to the church in Rome. Not to Timothy or some individual – or to elders or pastors.
These people gifts are, to put it bluntly, often hiding in the pew. As the story goes – church is a bit like football (aka soccer) – 22 people charging around on the field in great need of a rests, and 22 000 others in the stands in great need of exercise.
So when we have our ACM today and receive reports about what we have managed to do through the past year – remember that we are looking back.
And let’s be honest financial accountability is a key part of this – with a dose of transparency. And a lot of gratitude for the resources we have. And that especially includes people.
When we meet at this meeting today – whether you stay or not this applies. If for some reason you have been left out in the long lists of thanks. Please remember – it’s probably just an oversight.
Remember this too – it’s not about me. Or you. It’s about giving glory to God. And being a blessing to others. And as Jesus taught in Luke 17: Luk 17:10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’
Point 2 of the sermon is really a question. How are you doing when it comes to using the gifts God has given you?
Sometimes the only one stopping you using your gifts is you.
If you have a desire to be part of the future teams making things work here so that we can reach people here and beyond with good news, and help care for those who do need encouragement and mercy because life can be tough – please use the gifts God has given you in proportion to your faith.
As you step out and have a go, your faith will become stronger too.
It’s a wonderful ride and great to be part of a team of which it can be said – we are working on Romans 12:9-18. Sincere love, brotherly love and devotion, harmony and peace – well you can read the rest of those verses. We don’t get it all right. But we really do have a heart for His Kingdom to come and His will to be done in this place. (I recommend that you read Romans 12:11-18 as you reflect on this through the week.)
Even A Cup of Cold Water
(Preacher ― Bill Davey, Elder ― Information sourced from the websites: “Meditation for Christians” and “Association of Hebrew Catholics in New Zealand”)
New International Version (NIV)
37 “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. 38 Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.
40 “Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. 41 Whoever welcomes a prophet as a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and whoever welcomes a righteous person as a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
In this message I hope we can capture something of the teaching style of our Lord, as He prepared His disciples for mission and ministry.
To his disciples Jesus was a rabbi who taught in a Jewish context and one who expected his disciples to grapple and wrestle with the ideas He presented to them.
His study methods also included the disciplines of reflection and meditation ― All are part of their (and our) Jewish heritage and inheritance (Our patrimony).
First: We will review the Lord’s straight talk about relationships and then the likely rewards of faithful service.
Secondly: I accept that we might well struggle to understand some of the teaching of Jesus, until we have had the chance to ponder the issues further.
Thirdly: I hope we will discover something of the profound ideas Jesus has expressed within these Scriptures:
• He who receives you receives me ….. me receives the one who sent me!
• Receiving even a cup of cold water can be a ministry!
“Even A Cup of Cold Water”
St. Matthew 10: 37 ― 42 New International Version
We are in rabbinic school, and this is how Jesus, our tutor presents His doctrine. He does not open with words such as:
“Gentlemen, today we will consider aspects of natural and supernatural life.”
In the tradition of the culture, He opens with a stunning quandary — and, yes, the disciples would have shrunk back, just as we might.
Now let us review inclusive language of A/v 1 and 3 — “Anyone”, ” Whoever” and “He who” ―
Now return to A/v 1
Now, in three verses, Jesus makes three points in an ascending order of hardship to emphasise the phrase, “for my sake”.
37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;
38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
Now, in three verses, Jesus makes three points in descending sequence of reward.
40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.
41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward.
42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”
These six verses of Scripture really belong together ― They cause me to examine my commitment and motives before the Lord, both within the context of my own family, and also within the wider family of the Household of God.
They have application for all Christians and I suspect Jesus uses them as basic training for all of His disciples. They appear to be standards for every disciple who wants a truly close relationship with Jesus Christ, the Lord.
In addition, in the second cluster of verses, please note use of the words: “I tell you the truth.” (Verily, verily I say unto you” or “Truly, truly I tell you.” ― these are matters of great moment.)
However the consoling, underlying message is that anyone can qualify — it is a matter of personal choice. There are no exclusions! The love of God can therefore be spread to the utmost end of the earth by those whom He uses.
Verses 37 ― 39 ― Relate to the motives of the believer
First: Jesus requires His disciples to love their parents and family no less than totally, but they are to love Him even more. He is here calling them into a very special relationship, which they must be entirely free to enter into. Love for Him will not diminish legitimate God-given love for family.
Secondly: The follower must be ready to share in the fate of Jesus, to be persecuted and to die. This is the first mention (in this Gospel) of crucifixion. Only by coming to terms with this very real possibility of cruel and torturous execution, could the disciple be free to proclaim the message of Jesus.
Thirdly: The follower will spend the rest of his life exploring and implementing the strange paradox of gaining and losing life.
Verses 40 ― 42 ― Challenges on the Mission Field
First: Those who receive the Messiah’s representatives, the Disciples, (and then those whom they subsequently appoint and authorise), receive Him, and with Him, His Father. They receive God! Their commission is thus a very solemn one — and is addressed equally to us.
Secondly: Those who receive the Apostles because they recognise them to be prophets (the word here means teachers), righteous men and disciples of the Lord, will receive the same reward as did they, namely eternal life.
Thirdly: Even those who help the disciples down through the ages on their mission, by offering only a cup of cold water (the smallest possible action) as they journey, will be rewarded. All are thus joined, in some way, to the outreach of the Lord, not actually because they merited it ― but because the Lord chooses to respond in graciousness.
A thought for Reflection
When, as followers of Jesus, we make this commitment to Him, the most amazing blessings follow. We become not just members of the Household of God; we also become bearers of Him to any who will receive us — We are empowered to help lead home the lost sheep of this world by simply receiving any kindness — let alone giving any — We are to be praying in our hearts, a blessing upon the people we meet.
Can we imagine a higher status than to be a God-bearer?
These readings represent a formal rabbinic “lesson plan” for the disciples, easily committed to memory, and providing a treasury of our Lord’s deepest thoughts.
We are left challenged by the question: “Can we really believe each of the points He makes?”
We have to question of ourselves — that is part of the purpose of the passage.
This Messiah certainly gives some very focused attention ― to be sure we understand Him!
Our Rabbi Yeshua asks us to follow in His footsteps, and promises
that if we do so, He will walk in ours, with us, to the farthest ends of the earth.