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Jack Graham - Better Together


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    Jack Graham - Better Together
TOPICS: Essential Gospel, Unity, Spiritual Gifts

I want to encourage you to take your Bibles right now and turn with me to Romans chapter 12, the twelfth chapter of the book of Romans. And this is our ESSENTIAL GOSPEL series. Romans 12 is one of the great chapters in the Bible. I want to be a Romans 12 Christian. And you will see what I mean by that as we make way, we're going to take our time through Romans chapter 12 these days, but you'll see what I mean as the Apostle Paul gives us now instructions as to how we are to live out this life that we have been given in Christ. This is the life that you were born to live. Born again, to live again in Christ. And the title of today's message is "Better Together".

Don’t you love God’s church? And in particular if you are a part of this family, Prestonwood, you love this church. And there’s nothing like the church when the church is functioning and fellowshipping together as God intended. We’ve been talking about being a living sacrifice, our all on the altar, so when we are all in, all on the altar, we will be all in the fellowship of God’s church, and functioning as a member of this body of Christ. The indisputable fact is we need one another, that we are better together.

Hebrews chapter 10 and verse 25 says: "And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some," And he said, "That's not good because we really need one another". We're to be "encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near". What day? The day when Christ returns. And in these last days, in these difficult and even desperate days, we need each other now more than ever! Amen? When you become a Christian, God puts you in a spiritual family and that’s one illustration of what it means to be a part of the Church, to be in a family, brothers and sisters in Christ. But we also are told that God puts us in a body, a Paul often illustrates with a physical body the spiritual body of the Church. And that’s what this passage is about in front of us today.

So look, beginning in verse 3, Romans chapter 12, and let’s read together God’s Word: "For by the grace that is given to me (that is, Paul an apostle) 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. For as in one body we have many members, and they all do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ (the Church), and individual 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; and the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness".

Why are you here on earth? What is God’s plan and God’s purpose for your life? If you are a follower of Jesus, it is to glorify Him always by giving your life to serve Him and to minister through His Church. Some people have the idea that the way you grow in your faith to be holy, to be righteous is to get alone, to be by yourself. While there are times that we're to separate and isolate and get alone with God, when you see the life of Jesus, Jesus Himself spent time alone. He often spent time alone. But Jesus was also among the people. The most righteous one who ever lived, the righteous one, Jesus was constantly among the people. He said, "I didn't come to be served, but I came to serve".

And so you see Jesus touching the Leper or blind eyes, or ministering to hurting people, to outcasts as well as the upper crust of society. He was with all kinds of people. And the Gospel just describes how Jesus was always among the people, healing them, touching them, serving them. And so if you want to be like Jesus, you will also as a part of His body, now His hands, His feet; we are serving Him in community. This body of Christ. The Church is Christ, the head. He is our head. This is His Church. He said, "I will build my Church" and it belongs to Him and we belong to Him. And we are then a part of the body of Christ as we worship together, as we serve together, as we minister together. This means that God has placed each one us in this body, and it’s been said that everybody is somebody in His body. And that means you! We believe together, we are blessed together, we belong together and that means we are better together. We desperately need the Church and the Church is needed in the world and in our community.

Oh, what could happen in our generation if the world could see an empowered and an engaged Church. The Church being the Church, the Church triumphant in our generation. And so as we think about this subject then there’s some things that we do in order to be a part of this body, the Church, and how we make things better together. So the first is a word I want to mention and it's the word humility. Back to verse 3; look at verse 3 again. Paul says, "By the grace given to me, I say", and even in that, Paul is emphasizing his own humility. Paul an apostle, yet by the grace of God, He said, "I am what I am by the grace of God. Because of 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 or sane judgment each according to the measure of faith that he has been given".

Three times in this passage the work think shows up. To think about your position in Christ, your identity in Christ, and with that comes humility. To not think of ourselves with an exaggerated sense of self-importance. So don’t think of yourselves more highly than you ought to think. Rather, view yourself through the lens of the holiness of God, through Scripture itself, because humility has been described as not thinking lowly of yourself or thinking too highly of yourself, but not thinking of yourself at all. Some have the idea that they are humble in that they can’t do anything. Don’t dare tell God that you can’t do anything for Him. The Spirit of God is in you. Christ is alive in you.

There's a great passage of scripture in John chapter 13 when Jesus, according to verse 1, knowing that all things were given unto Him, He took off His outer robe, took up a towel and He began to wash the feet of those disciples, one by one. He took on the duty and responsibility of a house servant, often given to the lowest of the servants in the house to wash the feet of travelers. And so when Jesus took that towel and bent down and washed the feet of His disciples, He gave us this example, this perfect example of what humility is, what a servant of God does. You know how to know when you're a servant of God or not? It's when people treat you like one, and how you respond. And if our egos are out of control, if we think of ourselves too much, too highly, then we're offended if someone expects too much of us, we're put-off if someone doesn't respect us, we're put down many time in our minds if people overlook us.

Paul says, "Forget about all that! Don't look at yourself like this, but with sane and sober judgment, and according to the faith that is being given unto you, begin to serve the Lord". Humility, like Jesus, knowing who He was, He knew that God had given Him all things, and yet He served. Humility is knowing who you are in Christ and then acting accordingly in the power of the Holy Spirit. And then comes unity, in verse 4. We're better together in the oneness that we've been given in Christ. That's why He talks about the body. Verse 4 again, just look at it: "As we are one body, we have many members and the members don't have all the same function in the body".

So we have, obviously, all these parts of the body, some seen and unseen. And everybody has been designed and created by God to function. When it is healthy, the body is functioning properly. When the body is growing and developing, it is connected, one part to another. You take off a finger and lay it aside, that finger will die; it won’t grow because it’s disconnected from the body. If you want to know the secret of any great, God-blessed church it is oneness. Our oneness, of course, is in Christ. We believe and are together because of Him and therefore, we belong to one another. Jesus prayed in His final hours on earth that His Church would be one; that we would be one together in unity. At all cost we must keep unity of the Spirit in the bonds of peace.

So what I believe we need to be doing this side of heaven, is doing everything that we can to collaborate and cooperate with Christians and that includes churches that aren't just like us in order to get the Gospel around the world. But with that is diversity, and when you talk about these many parts of the body that we just read about, there is this diversity in the body of Christ. In other words, we all are different and we have different functions in the body. For example, in 1 Corinthians 12 and verse 4 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone".

And then down in verse 11 of 1 Corinthians 12: "All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills". The body of Christ is diverse, just as the physical body is diverse and we are appreciative of the beautiful variety and diversity that we have in the Church. And with this unity and diversity and humility, then comes ministry. So let’s take a few moments to talk about the ministry, and in particular, your ministry. Verses 6,7 and 8 speak of spiritual gifts, the charismata, the grace gifts; gifts that are given by grace. That means that when we are graced by God, we are gifted by God. When Christ came into your life, He did not come in empty-handed, He came in bringing birthday gifts, spiritual birthday gifts. You have been gifted by the Spirit, and every Christian has one or more spiritual gifts.

There are salvation gifts, there are spiritual gifts, not natural talents. We say that they are supernatural in that they come from God. These are the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit. There's as many as 26 - depending on how you count them — gifts of the Spirit described in the New Testament, but right here in Romans chapter 12 Paul mentions 7 gifts. They are 7 ministry gifts. I think it was Warren Wiersbe the Bible teacher who said these gifts are not for our enjoyment, they are for our employment. They are not tools or toys to be played with, but tools to work with in building the body of Christ. So you have a spiritual gift. A spiritual gift or gifts.

And A. T. Pierson gave us a great paragraph on these. I want to take the time to share this. So good. He said: "Everyone has some gift; therefore, all should be encouraged. No one has all the gifts; therefore, all should be humble. All gifts are for the one body; therefore, all should be harmonious. (That is, all working together.) All gifts are from the Lord; therefore, all should be contented. All gifts are mutually helpful and needful, therefore, all should be studious faithful. All gifts promote the health and strength of the whole body; therefore, none can be safely dispensed with all gifts depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, all should keep in close contact with Him, that is, the Spirit of God".

So let me just review very quickly these 7 spiritual gifts. Number one is the gift of prophecy. If were just to put an equals by that, that is the gift of preaching. Now a prophet is someone who foretells the futures, in particular the Old Testament prophet was a foreteller, but primarily even the prophets from the Bible, both Old and New Testament were forth-tellers. In other words, they were declaring the word of God. They were often bringing a word of exhortation or challenge or correction or a call to repentance to people. And this is the word of the prophet. It literally means mouthpiece, one who is delivering a message.

So translated to today, a prophet is a preacher of the word of God. We who preach, are called to preach and commissioned to preach the Gospel. We have received this ministry from the Lord, this gifting from God. It's so essential to the Church. It's why we have the pulpit as a sign and a symbol. You can preach without a pulpit; it's a piece of furniture. But this pulpit stands at the core, at the center of this building because everything is built around the preaching and the proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the teaching of the word of God. Therefore, the Church needs preachers. As the old saying goes: You may not think you could ever be a preacher, but "God does not call the equipped; He equips the called". And when God calls you, He enables you. With every calling is an empowerment and an enablement to do what God is calling you to do.

Number two is service. It’s interesting that the preaching gift and the serving gift are side by side. The serving gift is the act of ministering in a very practical and personal way, and it often is related to the overall proclamation preaching gift because behind the scenes, as you well know, getting together so that we can preach and gather and worship together are hundreds and hundreds of people who are practically serving in a way that is unseen. They’re not on the platform, they’re not visible, they’re not even looking for any kind of applause. They just work, they serve. And those who have this gift don’t need to be asked; they just step up and serve. So sometimes this gift is called the gift of helping, serving. And you're never more like Jesus than when you are serving. Lest you think that's some kind of a lesser gift. Jesus said, "The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve". And so when you're serving in this way, you are serving like Jesus.

Thirdly is the the gift of teaching. Preaching and teaching are somewhat different. Teachers have the ability to explain the Scriptures.

Fourthly, there is encouragement, or encouraging, exhortation. This is different also, though it is a public gift in many ways, it is different than preaching and teaching. The encourager is somewhat, let's call them a motivator, an inspirer. They're the kind of person when they speak in a public way, you're ready to go out of the building and just charge hell with a water pistol. I mean, they just fire you up! You know, like Scott Turner on our preaching team. Wouldn't you say Scott Turner is an exhorter? Yeah, he is! And, you know I think about Zig Zigggaaa. He was, you know, such an encourager. The word means to come alongside. Para is the word here to exhort, to come alongside of someone and to encourage them.

So it can be done in a public way. But thinking about Zig, he set on the, you know, first row right here all the years he and the Redhead were a part of our church, and taught, and he would be on platforms around the world. Known as the world's greatest motivational speaker and salesman, and all the rest. It could be quite something to be speaking to one of greatest communicators in the world, right there in front of you. But did you know, Zig was my greatest encourager. Every time after a message he would come up and say, "Pastor, that was a great message". And challenge me and just encourage me, even if it wasn’t that great. He was an encourager. There are people like that. When they come around, they cheerlead you, they encourage you. And encouragement can also be not in a public way, but in a personal way, like a counselor. But to cheer and to comfort and to strengthen, to come alongside, sometimes with a word of correction and accountability, but encouragers, exhorters.

Then, fifthly, there is giving. Now every Christian has a responsibility of giving and generosity. We are all to give. Just like we, there's a gift of evangelism, but we're all to evangelize, we are all to give and to give generously, but there is the gift of giving. Generosity is a key quality in Christian growth and fellowship in the church. Some of you have deep, deep financial difficulties and demands upon your life. And for some, for many, the reason is you have not partnered with God in giving the first tenth of your income and beyond to the Lord and His work and you're in trouble because you're not practicing stewardship in your life. You're in trouble financially because you are disobeying God in the area of your finances and your giving. But that said, as all of us are to give.

Then there are those who are blessed to give in a particular way, gifted to give. This is a supernatural gift that is a desire to give beyond the ordinary. This is a person who not only gives financially above and beyond, but maybe gives of their time, extra for the Lord, This is the kind of person that has this gift of giving. They just love to bless people. They are faithful and fruitful stewards. They know that they have been entrusted with these gifts. And you don’t have to be wealthy to have the gift of giving or to be generous in your giving as far as that goes. I’ve known people who are living on a very modest income who were gifted to give supernaturally.

Then there is leading or ruling. This is administrative, organizing, providing guidance and governance for the church. We're thankful for those who understand finances and understand structures and organizations, who are able to put these things together in the leading and the ruling, in the administration of the church. You have a spiritual gift.

And then seventh there is mercy which is showing kindness and grace to others. It's giving people not what they deserve but what they don't deserve, which is the mercy of God and your mercy. It's the extraordinary ability to express love and empathy and sympathy and compassion to others. This is person who goes to the hospital and they make you feel better if you're the patient. You know some people walk in a hospital room, they make you feel worse. But if you have the gift of... They're like an advance agent for the undertaker. But if you have the gift of mercy, you are there with a smile. That's why it says, "With mercy and cheerfulness". You see that? The mercy gift.

When you show up with this gift and you help someone who is hurting, cheerfully and joyfully, when you come beside someone and lift them up when they're broken and fallen. We need the mercy gift as a church. We need people who say, "It's going to be okay. You're going to get through this. You're going to make it". The people that are there just to hold you when you're hurting. It's the mercy gift to comfort you when you're crying. Just to be there.

Now I heard it described, I'm going to land this plane, I promise you. Just stay with me. This is good stuff and you need to hear it. I need to hear it. So I heard, you know, the gifts described in this way: It’s like you’re at a dinner party and the dessert, let’s say it’s a pie, falls on the ground. It’s knocked off the table and it’s on the ground. This is the dessert. So what happens? The person with the gift of preaching prophesies and says, "Well, you know the reason that happened is you put it too close to the table and next time you got to put that in the center of the table". And the person with the gift of helps is serving says, "Here, let me pick that up". And just starts doing it without anyone asking them.

And then the person with the gift of teaching may say, "let's look at that pie. Let's take that menu apart right there. Let's see, there's some apples and there's", and start describing the pie, the kind of pie. Then there’s the person who is the encourager, the cheerleader who says, "Well you know what I think we need to do. Next time we need to eat dessert first. In fact, let’s have two desserts". And then the person who has the gift of giving comes along and says, "Well, I’ll buy next time all the dessert that you want. Let’s have more and more desserts".

And then the person who is the gift of leader, ruling, starts organizing everyone to get the table reset, and floor cleaned up. Go get the broom and go get some more plates and gets the organization going. And then the person with mercy says to the person who knocked the plate off the table, says, "It’s going to be okay. Everybody makes mistakes". Everybody in His body working and functioning together. We’re better together. Discover what God made you to do on mission for Him and start doing it as your ministry from the Lord.
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