Gifted to Serve
The following is a manuscript of the sermon presented by Dr. Roger Patterson on Sunday August 8, at our West U Baptist Church campus. To view the sermon in full, please visit our YouTube page.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you 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. 4 For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 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.
Now, last week, we saw that this amazing pivot in the entire book. Paul goes from teaching us the theology of salvation, what we call soteriology, to giving us the practical out-workings of our salvation.
Look again briefly at Romans 12:1-2.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
The NIV and the NAS, both say, “Therefore, I urge you…”
Paul’s appeal here has an urgency to it. This is the big pivot in this book. It’s the declaration that, since God is so merciful to the Jew and the Gentile, and since God has worked out salvation for all who call on his name, we are to live differently. We are to live lives that are an offering to him.
We offer him our hands and feet, our eyes and ears, our mouth, our minds…all that we are. We step into the offering plate as a living sacrifice. And we do this all, in view of the MERCY of GOD!
Now, immediately after Paul urges us to offer ourselves to Him as a living sacrifice because of God’s MERCY, he then says, “And now, I want you to understand what you are to do, because of GRACE.”
And that’s how Paul introduces us to these next few verses…in view of GRACE.
Notice these next few words in Romans 12:3.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you…
Now, before I share my outline with you, let’s make sure we can distinguish the difference between mercy and grace. In many ways, they are like Peanut Butter and Jelly, Batman and Robin, Steak and Potatoes…they go hand in hand.
But in verse 1, Paul says, “By the mercies of God…”
And remember, for a Sovereign to be Merciful, He withholds judgement. So, when Paul says, “By the mercies of God,” he is saying, “Since God has withheld what you rightfully deserve, offer yourselves to him as a living sacrifice.”
So, Mercy is God withholding what I deserve- his judgment upon me because I am an sinner and I have fallen short of the glory of God.
Then, he says, “For by the grace given to me…” and he then begins to instruct us how to live.
Grace: You can define grace with a number of words. One definition simply offers synonyms…
- Beauty, charm, favor, goodwill, free benevolence
Another says it this way…
- A special manifestation of the divine presence, activity, power; glory, a favor, expression of kindness, gift, blessing.
Fundamentally, grace is the gift of God’s presence, activity and power in my life that I don’t deserve but is vital for my own development and usefulness.
The Scripture describes God’s grace as Manifold or Multi-faceted. It’s not simply the forgiveness I find in Jesus, but it’s significant to how God’s Spirit works both in me and through me. The grace of God is given by His Spirit. It’s supplied as spiritual gifts. And it’s to be used for God’s glory.
Now, here is what I want us to see today about this Amazing Grace.
- Grounds Us
- Gifts Us
- Compels Us
Let’s look at this first point.
I. Grace Grounds Us
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you 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.
Remember who is talking here. The Apostle Paul says, “By the grace given me…”
Now, when we think of the Apostle Paul and we know his story, we can’t help but think of Saul of Tarsus. We can’t help but think of the persecutor of the church who gave approval to Stephen’s stoning and who imprisoned followers of the Way. Read the book of Acts, and our first encounters with Paul is a man named Saul who hates Christians.
But we also must keep in mind that Paul was shown a mercy…God withheld what Paul deserved and he was given a grace…a gift of God’s presence, activity and power in his life that he didn’t deserve, but that which was vital for his development and usefulness.
And this grace given to him was a calling, an office, an anointing, and understanding to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. It was a HEAVY WEIGHT placed upon him!
When Jesus called him on the road to Damascus he told him that he would go to the Gentiles and he would suffer many things.
Let’s pick up that story in Acts 9:10.
Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
The grace given to Paul wasn’t only his salvation, or even his call to the office of apostle, but it was the capacity to endure the office. It was the ability to know that he would experience imprisonment and persecution and famine and sword and shipwreck and keep going.
When we allow grace to ground us, the successes we have are seen through a lens of stewardship versus ownership. In other words, we don’t think more highly of ourselves than we ought. We see that God has positioned us to be influencers and difference makers. We know he has prospered our way and gifted us for something significant. And instead of that causing us pride, it keeps us humble.
I was with a dear friend a few weeks ago and we were having lunch. He works for a very successful company as their chaplain. And he said that he has seen it now multiple times that some believers when they enter into high, successful positions, they get changed by the money. They get swayed. Their love for the Lord diminishes and they compromise. They weren’t grounded by the weight of the office because they saw themselves as owners versus stewards.
Let me say a few words about owners versus stewards:
- Owners aren’t accountable to anyone.
- Stewards are always working in light of their master’s wishes.
- Owners believe what they have achieved is all for them.
- Stewards see their office and influence as temporary and they want to maximize their impact and influence.
Some fair questions for us to ask are:
- When we are blessed with success, what happens to us?
- Does it change us?
- Do we feel the weight of our influence? Or do we just feel entitled to all that we have?
If we are owners, we take pride in what we have done and how we have accomplished things. When we are stewards, we believe that we have been entrusted with more to bring more glory to God. We see our success as a gift of grace and an opportunity to extend grace to others.
I have spoken to a number of you through the years that talk about how there is a weight that comes with your success. You feel the weight of your office and your influence. You feel it for your family, for the church, for your company and those you lead.
I believe that this weight of office and weight of success is a grace. You have been given a grace by God to lead and bless and influence and you understand it as such and it’s heavy. It keeps you sober-minded.
You know you need God’s hand and wisdom and counsel over you lest you stumble and fall and defame the name of the Lord. The weight humbles you. And this is a good thing.
I was with a group of guys recently and we were reflecting on this very thing. And one of them mentioned these verses in Proverbs 30.
…give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,
9 lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.
This writer of Proverbs is saying, “I don’t want to become too big for my britches…I don’t want to get too big of a head because of my successes.”
AND he’s saying, “I don’t want to not have what I need so as to disappoint you and bring shame to your name, so GOD, graciously provide what I need and I’ll steward it well.”
Grace Grounds Us…And Grace also Gifts Us.
- Grounds Us
- Gifts Us
- Compels Us
II. Grace Gifts Us
Look with me at Romans 12:4-6a.
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, 5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 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.
Now, I have a confession to make. When I first framed this message up, I was using the outline that said…
- Grounds Me
- Gifts Me
- Compels Me
It sounded good. It flowed good. It was fairly simple to communicate and follow along with.
But then, as I got to this second point in my writing process, I realized that this passage isn’t about me. It’s about US.
So, I changed it to….
- Grounds Us
- Gifts Us
- Compels Us
And that’s a critical mistake that we make so often in our Christian lives. We are very man-centered versus God-centered, and we are very individualistic versus corporate in our thinking and decision making.
Paul’s point here about the grace of God is that it is given to US…a diverse and complex people…and it is given to us in varied ways, in order to support one another and assist one another.
Notice the analogy to the body—this won’t be the last time he uses this analogy. The Apostle Paul says that we are one body with many parts…
- There is muscle and organs and tendons and ligaments and joint and marrow. There is so much beautiful complexity to the human body.
And the Apostle Paul is asking a very diverse church – the church of believers in Rome—to embrace their diversity and recognize it’s beauty.
- They are Jew and Gentile.
- They are slaves and free people.
- They are men and women.
- Some come from Pagan worship and they struggle with too much freedom – which seems like the way of license.
- Others come from a very Jewish tradition—the legalism of keeping the law, and they don’t know how to walk in the Spirit like they should.
And the Apostle is trying to say to each of them – “You need one another,” AND “You need the grace gifts that God has placed in others for you.”
Now, look closely with me at verse 5.
5 so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.
We are one body in Christ. We together make up the body of Christ. And we are members one of another. We are interconnected. We need each other. We depend on each other. We long for one-another’s encouragement and faith and prayer and teaching.
We need to support one another and give ourselves away to one another, because this is how the body is to function. We support!!! We strengthen!!! We carry!!! We feed!!! We move together!
So, when we sit out and don’t show up because we have gotten into new habits of just watching online, or we don’t like the decisions that have been made recently—whatever the reason — we withhold our gifts from others and our contributions from one another. We make it about ME versus about US.
And notice the variety of the gifts given to us.
6 Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; 7 if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; 8 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.
Now, the gifts Paul describes in verse 6-8 can generally be divided into two categories: speaking gifts, which include prophesying, teaching, and encouraging; and service gifts, which include serving, contributing, leading, and showing mercy. Peter makes a similar distinction in 1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks… if anyone serves…”
But the point here is that you have been gifted for the sake of others. And you are to be sober-minded in this as well. Your gift is not about you in order to make you think more highly of yourself. You had nothing to do with the gift given you. So, use it humbly, because God chose to grant you a special gift…whether it be of speaking or serving.
But one of the things that we find to be more common is that people are hesitant to use their gifts… We ask, “Could you serve in this capacity? Would you be willing to run slides on Sunday morning or help with coffee once a month or greet others as they come in the door?”
Are you available? And the response we often get is, “Oh, I could never do that.” Or, “I don’t have the time to do that…”
Every area of our ministry needs a team working together to lift the other parts of the church. And as we build back our Sunday gatherings, we really need your gifts –
- Can you serve on our security team?
- Would you help with our hospitality team, greeting and ushering and assisting people in helping them navigate the campus?
- Might you be called to teach? We don’t just throw anybody into a teaching situation. Instead, we try them out and give them opportunity to see if it is a gift. But we want to deploy teaching gifts.
- We need encouragers and people with the gifts of mercy to assist our partners and our mercy ministries.
- We have a means to deploy your talent in the church and out in the world. And we want you to use your gift that God has given you for others.
Practical Application: I want to spend a moment calling your attention to two things –
- Our Serve Summit – Our Serve Summit is Sunday, August 29th at 5:30 p.m. at our Crosspoint Campus.
- If you are one of our volunteers, we want to honor you and encourage you in your serving.
- If you are being led to serve and use your gifts, this night is a night to come and avail yourself to opportunities to serve. You can learn more, connect with a team and get trained.
Sunday August 29th, Crosspoint Campus
Our Prayer Team – All month long, you will be seeing testimonies like you did on the screen as we started the message time. We are looking for more people to be trained for our prayer team. We are trying to mobilize people to be praying during our services and for the ministry that is taking place. We have a leader in Mary Ann Bridgwater, a member of our church who runs a prayer ministry called Pray the Word Ministries, and she is gifted in teaching and mobilizing the body of Christ to pray.
Here are two training times: Aug 25 at WU and Sep 1 at CP—6pm
Wednesday, August 25th at West U Baptist – 6 p.m.
Wednesday, September 1, at Crosspoint – 6 p.m.
My friends, Grace Gifts Us…God gives us gifts of Grace. And this leads me to my third point today.
- Grounds Us
- Gifts Us
- Compels Us
III. Grace Compels Us
Look with me at verse 6 again.
Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them:
We are expected to use the gifts given to us for a much greater purpose than ourselves.
F.F. Bruce states…
“Diversity, not uniformity, is the mark of God’s handiwork…Not only does the body of believers have all sorts of diverse parentage, environment, temperament, and capacity, but since becoming Christians, they have been endowed by God with a wide variety of spiritual gifts as well—all of these given through grace for the purpose of serving the body of Christ, witnessing to the world, and glorifying God!”
Listen to his words again: “…all of these given through grace for the purpose of…”
- Serving the body of Christ
- Witnessing to the world
- Glorifying God
Healthy churches are sure to serve one another, not fight with one another.
Healthy churches are sure to keep the mission the mission – sharing the gospel to our communities, our city and the world.
And when we do this, it brings God glory. And this is the ultimate aim of what the church is to be about!
John Piper asks a question that we might not think to ask when studying these verses:
- Why does Paul emphasize that we are “one body in Christ”?
- Why can’t we just be a great multitude of individuals who are all justified by faith and relating with Christ directly and only dependent on the Holy Spirit?
Maybe more practically, you’ve had a “Christian” friend asking why they even need to go to church?
Paul states the truth here but answers this question more fully in Romans 15:5-7.
5 May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, 6 that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7 Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Notice that two times Paul explains what the aim of Christian unity and mutual acceptance is: it’s the glory of God. It’s in verse 6 and at the end of verse 7.
God has ordained that a church be a unified body of diverse individuals and not just a collection of isolated individuals.
We are encouraged to live in harmony with one another and with Christ, “. . . so that you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
“God gets more glory through a body of believers functioning in a unity of truth and love than he would through a host of supposedly holy individuals who don’t relate to each other or minister to each other or worship with each other or do missions with each other.”
Then he says it again in Romans 15:7.
Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.
Another translation says, “Accept one another…”
“Christ accepted us in our sin and misery and loved us and saved us. Why? To glorify his Father (John 12:27–28; 17:4–5). So, Paul says, let that be your motive as well. That is why God designed salvation the way he did. Being united to Christ means being united to a body of believers, because this way God will get more glory than if he had saved us another way. God does everything to magnify his glory. That is why the church exists, and that is why small groups exist.”
A group of people learning how to love each other in the power of the gospel and in the power of the Spirit glorifies God more than single individuals relating to Christ in isolation. That’s not hard to understand. It’s easier to stay at home and watch TV than to get together with people different from you and carry their burdens in prayer and minister to them with your gifts and strategize with them to reach the lost. But God doesn’t get more glory when you just do the easy thing. He gets more glory when you depend on him to help you do the hard thing — and especially when you do it with the joy of hope.
Have you let Grace have its way in you? grace is the gift of God’s presence, activity and power in my life that I don’t deserve but is vital for my own development and usefulness.
- Is it keeping you grounded because you know you are just a steward, not an owner?
- Is it being used often through your life so that others will be built up and encouraged?
- Is it being used for the glory of God, compelling you to live in Christian community with a diverse people who need one another?
May we be a people of grace who bring glory to God!
 John Piper, “Measures of Faith, Gifts of Grace, Ministry in Small Groups,” www.desiringgod.org