Text: Romans 12:1-13
“An effective team is only as good as its members. No one holds the market on value. Sometimes we fail to see the value in each other. For instance, a sea captain and his chief engineer were arguing over who was most important to the ship. To prove their point to each other, they decided to swap places. The chief engineer ascended to the bridge, and the captain went to the engineer room. Several hours later, the captain suddenly appeared on deck covered with oil and dirt. “Chief!” he yelled, waving aloft a monkey wrench. “You have to get down there: I can’t make her go!”
“Of course you can’t,” replied the chief. “She’s aground!”
Both were responsible for the ship’s problems. It started when the two men lost sight of its other’s value. On any team one does not seek to better the other; one depends on the other.
That is a good picture of the church. If the church is going to go anywhere, each member has to realize his/her part and do it. We must understand the value of each other.
Why am I addressing this? Certainly God wants Central Schwenkfelder to be an effective church that makes a difference in our community and world. But it cannot happen without each member functioning in the ways in which God has called them. So it begs the question, how can we make the church go places? Are there ways in which Jesus, the head of the church, wants you and me to live out our faith? How must we live out our faith in relationship to the body of Christ? Let me give a couple of answers, as we love God by functioning as “One Church, One Family.” The first…
I. OUR FAITH MUST BE LIVED OUT SACRIFICALLY.
“I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
The theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans is the power of God in the gospel. In 1:16-17, Paul speaks of justification- accepted in the eyes of a holy God. This is done through, or by means of faith in Jesus Christ. Throughout this letter, the apostle develops the need for justification (our sin), how we are justified (Jesus’ sacrificial death) and the application of justification (faith). In Romans 12, Paul says that faith is not just something mental, but it is active.
Faith must be lived sacrificially …through the mercies of God. The Greek preposition gives off the meaning that through or by means of the grace of God, we are to offer our bodies as living sacrifices. The verb means “to present, to show; to offer, to yield, even to dedicate.” In the Old Testament, animals were killed then placed upon the alter to be offered up to God. It was an act of devotion and a means of atonement for sin. Since Jesus was our ultimate sacrifice, Paul says that we’re to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices. The Greek means sacrifice or offering. It was something that completely belonged to God. Here, our bodies are to be living sacrifices. Body here would denote our whole persons: our minds, our bodies, our interests, our talents, our service, our compassions. Since Jesus is the final blood sacrifice, both Jew and Gentile can now serve God while living.
Quite a difference with how we sometimes view our faith. Coming to faith in Christ is often understood as that which you do in order to get more comfort, more peace, and more benefits, such as fire insurance. Although there is tremendous personal benefit to being a Christian, we must not look at Jesus only as a means of self-help. Our view of membership ought to be one of service and sacrifice, not that of consumerism. Consumerism has negatively affected the church. Consumerism says: “I’m joining this church because they have a product I like. I’ll be here as long as I’m satisfied with the product. When I’m not, I’ll complain until I can’t take it anymore.” Under such pretense, many get upset and leave, only to go to some other congregation with the same false expectations. This leads to more frustration and eventual drop-out.
II. FAITH MUST BE LIVED OUT GENEROUSLY.
Verse four states:
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.
This passage also teaches that we must: “… recognize that there is a diversity of gifts represented in each congregation, Paul stresses that those who have gifts should use them for the good of the body and in humility.” (Waters, 191). When our spiritual gifts are in operation, love, service to one another, building each other up, is common place.
As we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, dedicating ourselves to God, we employ the gifts He has given us for ministry. When the Bible speaks of membership in the body of Christ, it has to do with service to God as an act of gratitude for all that He’s done for me. John F. Kennedy, our late president of nearly 50 years ago, is known for a statement during his 1961 inaugural address. Facing a tremendous task ahead of him, Kennedy stated that the work at hand would not be finished in the first 100 days of his administration, nor the first 1,000 days, or “perhaps in our lifetime on this planet.” Nevertheless, he announced, “Let us begin. … And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.” I’d like to encourage us to think about that statement in reference to the church and how we understand membership. Ask not what your church can do for you, ask what you can do for your church.
Living out our faith sacrificially implies faithfulness. We need to get back to faithfulness. God calls each of us to faithfulness. One person states:
“It is in the church, week after week, where we learn faithfulness. It is in the church where discipleship is carried out. It is in the church where accountability is modeled. It is in the church of Jesus Christ where we find the doctrinal roots that establish our faith.”
Your goal is to be faithful. To contribute. Are you faithful? Why are you on this earth, to live for yourself? Or to live for Him? Are you willing to sacrifice yourself to live more for Him? Dr. Guy Waters says that “… obedience is the response of the Christian to God’s goodness in Christ.” The list of imperatives in Romans 12 as necessary task of Thanksgiving toward God for his goodness. Lastly, …
III. FAITH MUST BE LIVED OUT OPENLY.
In the next three years, we’re trusting God to build our church body by your significant participation in a small group or a discipleship pathway that regularly graduates leaders and church members.
To develop a pathway that guides an attender to become a disciple of Christ, and then a member, and finally a leader. We want to create opportunities for casual connections.
“Casual connections become portals to the kind of authentic community God designed and for which people are longing. We see ourselves as one church family, offering help and hope to all. By attending and participating at Central, you will certainly know that you are welcome, loved, accepted, and needed. By participating in one of our small groups, finding your place to serve, and growing and spiritual maturity, you will be sharing real life with real people who are on the same transformative journey.”
Because it is in a small group the real community and fellowship can take place. Where individuals pray for each other. Where individuals see a need and react/respond. Where there is shared learning rather than just One Direction learning.
This will undoubtedly require some flexibility. It means some classes intentionally dividing to make two classes. It means some of you opening up your home is to hold a small group there for folks that want to be a part of our church, but cannot make it for Sunday school hour. It also requires some flexibility I’m on our youth. This will require restructuring current classes and creating new growth opportunities and classes.
Because the goal of such efforts is to encourage a one church, one family experience. Scottish theologian and Pastor James Torrance says that God‘s primary purpose for humanity is for filial…we have been created by God to find our true being-in-communion, and sonship, in the mutual personal relationships of love.” (Torrance, 38).
And this requires us to provide more opportunities to learn together, worship together, serve together, and be together! Verse three states: “For through the grace. This church, its operations, its assets, its programs, belongs to and exists for the glory of God in Jesus Christ. The Living Insights Bible puts it like this: “A vital sign of a healthy church is the exaltation of Christ as Head and supreme authority. Let us never forget that the body has one Head, and only one. The Head, remember is Christ. He-alone-is-Lord.”
In order to have a vibrant faith, we must remain connected to Jesus and with others, just as He said in John 15:5: “I am the vine and you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in Him bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.” Lastly, faith was not given to you to make your life easier, or more enjoyable. Faith was given so that you might be more like Christ.
What work has God called you to do? Or is it to be employed in His operations. How can I help His cause? There are many needs at Central. We need Sunday school teachers, leaders, those committed to prayer, those to help with various tasks. Stewardship is defined as everything you do after you say you believe. Our Church Council has made it one of our goals to foster spiritual gift awareness in our church. Spiritual gifts are special abilities God has given you to aid others in the body of Christ. You are employed by God to use them. In the future, it is hoped that you will take a spiritual gifts inventory to find out the type of ministry God has called you to do in His church. I hope you’ll take every advantage of it.
There are two ways in which our faith must be lived out in three ways: sacrificially, generously and openly. A young schoolboy was trying out for a part in the school play. His mother knew that he had set his heart on it, though she was afraid he would not be chosen. On the day the parts were awarded, she drove to school to pick him up. The young lad rushed up to her, eyes shining with pride and excitement. Then he said some words to her that should remain a lesson to us all: “Mom, I have been chosen to clap and cheer!” In the same way, God has lovingly chosen each of us for different and special tasks, no matter the significance we might place on them, great or small.