David Jeremiah - Fully Engaged With My Church
After World War II, a group of German students volunteered to rebuild a cathedral that had been bombed by the Germans. And as work progressed, they became concerned about a large statue of Jesus that they had found in the church with outstretched arms, and beneath the statue was this inscription, "Come unto me". Well, the problem with the statue was the hands of the statue had been broken off and completely destroyed. And after they discussed what to do, they decided to leave those hands off of the statue, and change the little message that was at the bottom. They took away the message, "Come unto me," and replaced it with, "Christ has no hands but our hands," as a reminder that Jesus Christ is in heaven, the body of Christ is on earth. The only Christ that most people will ever know is the Christ they see in the body, in the followers, and that we have been called to serve him in that manner.
All of you know that Romans chapter 12 is quite a famous chapter. We've all heard many sermons on the first two verses. "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God". That's what the verse says. Unfortunately, we usually stop our discussion of Romans 12 at the end of the second verse. And the problem with that is the rest of the chapter tells us how to do what the first two verses tell us to do. I mean, how do you present your body, holy, acceptable unto God? That's a great and noble concept, but everybody wants to know, what does that mean? Well, the answer to what does that mean is in the next few verses, verses 3 through 8. And the answer to how we present ourselves to Jesus Christ as a living sacrifice is found in the church.
The church of Jesus Christ is the atmosphere in which we live out our sacrificial service to the Lord. So I want to take you through these verses, and just kind of unpack them. I'm not going to dwell long on any one of the points, but I want you to see sort of the 30,000-foot view of this. And we begin with asking the question, how should a fully engaged Christian think about his or her calling? All of us as believers have three callings. We are called to Christ in our salvation. Then we're called to serve. And finally, we're called home to be with God. What I want to talk to you about in this first point is what it means to be called to serve, and what does it look like when you have a calling from God, and it's very interesting how Paul breaks this out for us. He reminds us that our attitude in the calling is so critical. Read with me verse 3, "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith".
When a person presents his or her body as a living sacrifice, the first thing that you realize when you do that is that it creates a sense of humility that emerges from that action. The example of it is in the next section, where it says, "I say, through the grace given to me". Men and women, if we have a calling from God, which all of us do, it's not about us. It's about God's grace allowing us to be a part of what he's doing on this earth. If you have been blessed with a giftedness, you need to guard your heart that you never sense that giftedness is about you. That God has given you, by his grace, that ability, that unique giftedness to be a part of what he's doing on this earth. When Paul determines to teach us about humility, he uses himself as the example. He says in Romans 1:5, "Through him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for his name".
One of the greatest things that happens to you as a Christian is, first of all, your gratitude for being a part of God's plan for salvation. But then, somewhere early on in your Christian experience, hopefully you're in a church where there's teaching, you begin to realize that God's plan for you is not just to sit back and enjoy your salvation, but God has a plan to use you in the gospel ministry of the church. And when that begins to take hold, when you begin to feel that God has a plan for you, as he has for everyone, listen to me, I want to just drive this home today, the Bible says that if you're a Christian, you have been given a gift of service by Almighty God. That is an undeniable fact of Scripture. So don't sit there and look at me like this is for somebody else. This is for all of us here. This is for every one of us in this room.
Almighty God has gifted us to do something. And of course, the question is, what are we doing? And if we're doing something for the Lord, Paul wants us to know right out of the starting block it's because of the grace of God. "According to the grace of God," Paul said, "I was given the ability". The extent of it is, in verse 3, it also says, "To everyone who is among you". Here is this global picture. Paul includes everyone without exception. Some people would say, "Oh, this is a passage for preachers, or for ministers, or for people who have a, quote-unquote, 'vocational calling.'" No, this is for everybody. Each one is urged to think about himself, and not to think more highly than he ought to. Some writers have tried to limit this to Paul's public ministry, but I do not believe that is right. It is written to all who have gifts, and how many of us have gifts? Come on now, all of us, everybody. Ephesians 4:7 says it this way, "But to each one of us grace was given according to the measure of Christ's gift".
So here's the first thing that we need to grab hold of, is God has saved us by his grace, and he's called us to serve him by his grace. You know, I want to think about this. God could get done anything he needs to get done without any of us. I mean, he created the world, he created us. He really doesn't need us. But he's chosen to use us to bring glory to his name, and I just want to tell you that after almost 50 years of serving the Lord, outside of my salvation, the greatest joy I have is serving the Lord Jesus Christ. To get up every morning and know that I'm going to get to give my energy today to something that's eternal. And I'm especially grateful for that during these days. I know that the one enduring thing that God has given us is his church, and we get to be a part of it. And it doesn't have to be affected by all the stuff that's going on around it. It is God's plan that we be the church.
The exclusion of this in verse 3 is not to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to think. Paul understands human nature. He knows that as soon as God gives us a gift, and we begin to use it, and we have a platform, the difficulty of the platform, it's raised higher than the rest of the auditorium. Anybody who gets on the platform has to be careful that on the platform, he doesn't get proud, think that it's about him. I mean, after all, I'm up here higher than all the rest of y'all. That's just so you can see me, that's all, because I belong down there with you. I'm on the same level as everybody else. But, you see, we often talk about how the platform is very seductive. And some people get on the platform, and they forget that I'm only here by the grace of God. God has allowed me to be here. It's been his goodness to me, his grace to me. It ought to always motivate me to have a spirit of gratitude. Peter quotes from the Old Testament, he summarizes the value of a humble spirit, he says, "Young people, submit yourselves to your elders.
All of you, be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility," be clothed with humility. And then he adds, "For God resists the proud, but he gives grace to the humble". In your commitment to Jesus Christ, in your giftedness that is being used in the church, it's always to be done with a spirit of humility and gratitude to the Lord. And the expression of it is also in this verse, "And to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith". It's important to remember, and this is really the core message of my sermon today, that no one Christian has all the gifts of the Spirit. No one Christian has all the gifts. Now, I've met some Christians who thought they had all the gifts. That's a very, very unpleasant moment. But the Bible teaches us that we're all members of this team, this body, and God has gifted each of us in a unique and different way. And the beauty of it all is when we come together, and we use our giftedness to make a difference in the world in which we live.
We are to take the gift that God has given to us, and evaluate its use, and while using our gift to be in full appreciation of the fact that we're surrounded by other people who are gifted, many of them more gifted perhaps than we are. And we're to enjoy our gift as a part of the giftedness of the body of Christ. Can I get a witness? Someone has defined humility as an unconscious self-forgetfulness. Another way to say it is, I've shared this with you before, that humility is not thinking less of yourself. It's just thinking of yourself less. The right attitude toward one's gift is the understanding that God has given not only the gift, he also gives us the ability to use the gift. I mean, what we bring to the table is just our willingness. God gives us the giftedness, then he helps us use that giftedness. Peter wrote, "As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God".
Let me just pause here for a moment and give you a couple of little special thoughts that fit right into this place. There's a sequence in Scripture that is never violated. Here it is, are you ready for it? Pride goes before destruction, and humility comes before honor. Or, as I read this week, pride is the first chapter in the book of failure, and humility is the first chapter in the book of success. God never puts anyone in a position of leadership until he takes him to a posture of servanthood. And you can get this right at the beginning of your Christian experience, or you can wait until you have to learn it the hard way, that if you stay humble and you stay hungry, there's nothing God cannot do in you and through you. God tells us that we're to humble ourselves before him. He gives us the choice, either we humble ourselves before him, or he humbles us. We've all experienced both of these things, and we all choose the former as opposed to the latter.
The message coming out of Romans 12:1 and 2 is that God wants to use us. When we present our bodies to him as a living sacrifice, the evidence of that will be how we go about serving him with this spirit of humility. How a fully engaged Christian thinks about his calling, "God, thank you so much for letting me be a part of your work, and given me a gift that I can use for the body of Christ". Everyone in this room can pray that prayer, and that's the prayer that God honors. The second thing is this, how a fully engaged Christian should think about his church. So, God has given you a gift, you a gift, you a gift, and all of us, we're all gifted. We can all say that with authority, "I am a gifted person". Say that with me, "I am a gifted person". So, that's great. So now, what do we do with these gifts? Well, notice verses 4 and 5 of Romans 12, "For as we have many members in one body, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another".
To think properly about one another in the body of Christ, we must remember that the church is not an organization, the church is an organism. It is a living and breathing organism, like the human body, and the human body is given to us as an example of the church. Now, how does the human body illustrate the church? The human body is made up of many parts, many members. And the human body cares for itself. Someone wrote, "A healthy human body cleans itself, scratches itself, exercises itself, shaves itself, brushes its hair, feeds itself, waters itself, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But more specifically, the members of the body serve other members of the body, and every member in this human body is involved in some capacity. No member of the body is unimportant. Each one has a function". Then there's another passage in the Scripture, you know, where they talk about what would happen to the body if it was all an eye, or it was all an ear. All of us uniquely bring something to the body of Christ. And we should think about that with regard to the immensity of the church.
Notice it says in verse 4, "For we have many members". Now, that's not talking about Shadow Mountain Community Church. This is talking about the church, which is the body of Christ. And the church which is the body of Christ is made up of all of the people, everywhere on planet earth, who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. The body of Christ is immense, it's huge. It's easy to pass over this word "many," but it is the greatest reason for the importance of spiritual gifts because there are so many who need to be ministered to in the body of Christ. It's imperative that all of the members of the body of Christ share in that ministry. Every time a person in the body says, "It's not my responsibility," someone else in the body is saying, "Why isn't ministry touching me"? Because everyone in the body has been gifted by God to make a difference. And when we pull out, it may give us a brief moment of relief, but someone over here who God intended to receive the ministry that he equipped you to do, that person is left out of the process because of the immensity of the church.
We should think not only about the immensity of the church, but the diversity of it. Notice that the Bible tells us that we are different. Romans 12:4 says we are many members in one body, and all the members do not have the same function. 1 Corinthians puts it this way, "There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. There are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But one and the same Spirit works in all these things, distributing to each one individually as he wills". Now, how many of you are glad that we're not all just exactly alike? Some of you more than others. I'll never forget when I was a pastor in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we used to have winter. I just threw that in, some of you don't even know what that is, winter, when the snow falls. We actually had several times at the church that I founded there where we had to close, we couldn't have church because the roads were just totally covered with snow.
I remember one particular weekend when that happened. And I had enough time, I had about 8 hours, I decided, because we were on live television, not television like we have now, but this was live. We were satellite to the ABC affiliate station, and it was all over the Fort Wayne area, and nobody could get to church. So we still had to have a service. We got a snowmobile, and we went and got an organ player, and we got a soloist, and we got our engineers, and with all our snowmobiles parked out in front, and we had a church service, and I preached, and there was nobody there. It was the largest TV audience we ever had when I was in Fort Wayne. And I decided I was going to preach on snow. I remember reading a bunch of stuff in the Bible about snow, so I'd gotten my concordance out, and I looked at every reference. And the one thing I remember more than anything else about that is this, that when you see snow, there has never, ever in the history of snowfall been two snowflakes exactly alike.
Isn't that an amazing thing? God created every single snowflake with a unique difference. And God has created all of us, as his children, with a unique difference. We are diverse. We're all one, but we're all different. Men and women, God has given us the privilege to be a part of the church, the most diverse organism in the history of the world. And the Bible says while we all are different, we all have the same Lord, we all have the same gifting, we all have the same purpose. And that's why we can come together as brothers and sisters, and the only language that really matters is the language of love from God himself. We are one, but we are many. And then in verse 5, it says we are not only immense and diverse, but we are unified. "So we, being many, are one body in Christ". Diversity and unity, one but many, diverse but in essence the same. And when you look out and you see us, all ages, all ethnic backgrounds, we realize what a blessing it is to be involved in the church of Jesus Christ.
1 Corinthians 12:12, Paul wrote, "For as the body is one and has many members, all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, as also is Christ". You know, the world is trying to figure out how to deal with racial tensions and all of the issues that are going on between the ethnic communities, and the body of Christ is the answer. Because when we come to Christ, racial differences no longer matter because we're one in the body. And that's a wonderful treasure that we have in the church of Jesus Christ. Can I get an amen? Amen, all right.
One of the greatest books I ever read in my life was written by a doctor named Paul Brand. And in his book, "Fearfully and Wonderfully Made," he uses the human body to explain the unity that we have in Christ. And here's what I read, here's a paragraph from that book, "Just as the complete identity code of my body inheres in each individual cell, so also the reality of God permeates every cell in Christ's body, linking us members with a true organic bond. And I sense that bond when I meet strangers in India or Africa or California who share my loyalty to Christ. Instantly, we become brothers and sisters, fellow cells in Christ's body. I share the ecstasy of community in a universal body that includes every man and woman in whom Christ resides".
So, that's why, when you are a Christian and you go on vacation, and you're sitting in a restaurant, and you see a family over there bow their heads, you might talk to them, and the next thing you know you're having dinner with them, and you're becoming friends. Where people gather and Christ is in the heart of the person, immediately that DNA draws them together, and reminds them that we are one body in Christ, no matter where we live, what our background is, what language we may speak. So we should think about the immensity of the church. The giftedness that you have is so important because the church is so big. And the church is so diverse, and because of that, you bring something unique to the church. And you should think also about the harmony of the church. It says individually, we're members of one another. And I love this verse, verse 16 of Ephesians chapter 4 says this, "From whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love".
What that verse says is that, because when we come together as the body of Christ, and each of us brings our unique, diverse giftedness to the body, and all of us do that, the body grows. It not only grows spiritually, but it grows numerically. I was thinking about this this week. And pardon me if I dream once in a while, but my dream was what would happen if every member was fully engaged with the church. We have 20% of the people doing 80% of the work, and a lot of others who just don't know for sure why they don't do anything, but don't. And I'm here today to free you up and let you know we need your help, we need you to be involved. And God has called you to be involved. It's not really an option. If you want to be a really growing, maturing believer, you need to find out what God has given you to do and do it. Because he never has called anybody to sit on the bench. There are no called spectators in the church. We have a lot of spectators.
Someone said, "The church is like a football game. You got 22,000 people in the stands who need exercise, and 22 people on the field who need rest". That's true. And that's true of our church. And I'm not giving you this message because, you know, we have any great crisis. I'm giving this message because I know that your health spiritually, and your growth spiritually, and your well-being spiritually is dependent upon not only you being saved, but you being serving the Lord. That's what God has called all of us to do. And then that means every fully engaged Christian should think about his contribution. Now, I'm not talking here about money. Verses 6 through 8 of chapter 12 in Romans said, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us," what's the rest of it, class? "Let us use them". It's one thing to have a gift, and you can sit around and admire it, but that's not what a gift is for. A gift is not a gift unless it's given.
So the Bible says, "Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them". And that gives me great freedom to ask you, are you using your gift? Oh, you say, "Pastor, I don't think I'm worthy". I hear that so much. "You know, I don't have an education. I've had a rough background". So I thought I'd give you a list of some of the people I read about in the Bible who were gifted, and who they were, and what they did, and you will know immediately that God used them. Are you ready for this? This is meant to free everybody in this room totally up, 100%. Moses had a stuttering problem, Gideon was afraid, Jeremiah and Timothy were too young, David had an affair and was a murderer, Elijah was suicidal, Isaiah preached naked, Jonah ran from God, Naomi was a widow, Job went bankrupt, John the Baptist ate bugs. Peter denied Christ, the disciples fell asleep while they were praying, Martha worried about everything, Mary Magdalene was immoral, the Samaritan woman was divorced more than once, Zacchaeus was too small, Paul was too religious, Timothy had an ulcer, and Lazarus was dead.
Now, I'm having a little fun with you, but I just want you to know this. God is not waiting for perfect people. God is waiting for wiling people. He calls us, and then he equips us. God will never call you to do something that he doesn't enable you to do. God's callings are God's enablements. So don't sit back there and say, "Well, yeah, I know, Pastor, I should be doing something, but let me tell you about". No, I don't want to hear about you. I've already heard about these guys, and they're some of the people God used to the greatest extent for one reason. Here's the deal, my father, who was not a fan of teaching the gifts of the Spirit for reasons I never did understand, he would just kind of broad brush it and say, "The only gift I care about is the gift of availability".
And that's a pretty good gift, isn't it? "Lord God, I'm available to be your servant in whatever you ask me to do". And I promise you, if you make that a determination of your life, God will connect you someplace, and you will begin to sense the joy of being a vital, useful part of the body of Christ. There are a bunch of illustrations of the different kinds of gifts. For instance, some people have gifts for the exposition of the gospel, for the exclaiming of the truth. Others have gifts for the exercising of it. Some have gifts for the explaining of it. And some have gifts for encouraging, and mercy, and ministry. And some have gifts for the extension of the ministry, like evangelism. And some have gifts for contributing. You know, there's a gift in the New Testament called the gift of giving?
And I've notice over the years, as I've met people, that God has blessed them financially, he's given them the gift of generosity. People have that gift. And then there's the gift of leadership. All of these are different gifts. And by the way, if you're trying to find out where the gifts are and what kind of gifts does God give to his people, the best that I can understand there are 19 of them in the New Testament, and here's where you'll find them. You'll find part of the list in Ephesians 4, part of it in Romans 12, and part of it in 1 Corinthians 12. You look at all those passages, and you'll be able to find them immediately, and there's all these different gifts. Make the list, and ask the Lord, "Where do I fit on this list"? It's not an exhaustive list, but it's a beginning list. It helps you to understand how God has given you a ministry.
At a meeting of the American Psychological Association, psychologists Jack Lipton and R. Scott Builione presented their findings on how members of the various sections of 11 major symphony orchestras perceived each other. The percussionists were viewed as insensitive, unintelligent, and hard of hearing, yet very fun-loving. String players were seen as arrogant, stuffy, and un-athletic. The orchestra members overwhelmingly chose loud as the primary objective to describe the brass players. Woodwind players seemed to be held in the highest esteem, described as quiet and meticulous, though a bit egotistical. With such widely divergent personalities and perceptions, how could an orchestra ever come together and make such wonderful music? The answer is simple. Regardless of how those musicians viewed each other, they subordinated their feelings and their biases to the leadership of the conductor. Under his guidance, they played beautiful music.
And ladies and gentlemen, we're just like the orchestra. We come with all of our idiosyncrasies, and we bring all of that to the stage. And then we look up, and here is Jesus Christ, the head of the church leading us. And somehow, when we follow him, all of those things which might not be attractive to us on a personal basis are lost in our commitment to Jesus Christ and his church. It's the most beautiful thing, the most wonderful thing you can ever see. And for people who are Christians to say, "Oh yes, I'm a Christian, but I just go to church when I can, I don't need the church," well, you don't need the church, but let me tell you the church needs you. And you can never be what God wants you to be if you try to live your life isolated from the church of Jesus Christ. That's not the word of David Jeremiah, that's the Word of the Scripture.
I know that until you are fully engaged with the church, you will never know the full joy that God wants you to have in your life. Oh yes, you can do your thing. Someone wrote, "When you were born, your mother brought you to church. When you were married, your wife brought you to church. When you die, your friends will bring you to church. Why don't you try to come to church on your own sometime"? Not a bad thought. What would it mean to be fully engaged with the church? I know most of you are fully engaged with God. I see a lot of you. And some of you, in your own quiet way, you're a fully engaged person with what you do. You know that life wasn't meant to be lived halfway. You're a wholehearted person.
I want to ask you this. What would happen to you, and what would happen to all of us here, if you became fully engaged with the church where God has brought you? Where you said, "Lord, I don't know what it is you want me to do. Maybe I need to drive a shuttle bus, or maybe I need to work as an usher, or maybe I need to get in the choir," or whatever. There are so many opportunities. Look at that list of gifts, see what you believe God has equipped you to do. Ask your spouse, "What do you think God has given me to do"? and then find a way to do it. The church is what God wants to use in this day and age. And the darker the background is, the more the church is going to stick out as the one thing God wants to use in his world today.
My commitment needs to be to that which is eternal. And your commitment needs to be that the church of Jesus Christ is what God wants to bless. And you don't have to worry about the head of this church because it's Jesus Christ himself, and he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Yes, we need to do what we need to do in the world in which we live. We've talked about being good citizens. But we also need to remember that our citizenship is in heaven. And that while we're doing this, we must realize that the most important thing we can ever do is to move the church forward to accomplish the goal of reaching this world for Jesus Christ. And I'm telling you, I want you to help, I want you to be a part, I want you to be a member. I want you to do today what you're going to be glad you've done when you stand before the Lord someday, and he asks you about how you spent your life. Let's get fully engaged with the church. Amen.